Today, the Chicago City Council voted 43-3 to decriminalize low level marijuana possession in the city. With Chicago being the third largest city in the United States, the passing of this ordinance is huge for not only residents of Chicagoland, but also for the marijuana movement.
Under the new ordinance, possession of up to one half ounce of marijuana (15 grams) will be punishable by a fine rather than arrest. First time offenders can be fined between $250 and $500.
Decriminalization will help to bring in new revenue for the city and also free up police officers who are already spread too thin.
According to the Chicago Police Department, in 2011 there were 18,298 arrests for possession of under 10 grams of marijuana. On average, each case involved 4 police officers as well as staff at the Cook County jail, who then had to process and house those charged. The majority of these low level cases were dismissed, wasting the city’s time and resources.
Chicago has seen a 37% spike in its murder rate this year, so having police officers free to handle serious crime is critical.
Other cities with similar decriminalization ordinances include Champaign, Illinois, as well as Philadelphia, Seattle, and Pittsburgh.
There will still be marijuana arrests in the city for people with higher levels of marijuana possession. Also, people found with any amount of marijuana on school grounds or in parks would be subject to arrest. In addition, anyone under the age of 17 or anyone without identification who are found to be in possession of any amount of marijuana can be arrested.