Friday, June 29, 2012

Chicago council votes to decriminalize marijuana, wins by landslide

The "Windy City" Council just made and incredible vote to decriminalize possession of marijuana. The Chicago City Council voted Wednesday on the measure which was supported by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the votes were an overwhelming 43-2 in favor of decriminalization.

Personal users maybe able to avoid being arrested and taken downtown; Reuters reports, under the new ordinance offenders who possess 15 grams or less of marijuana, will be issued a written violation and fined between $250 and $500 instead of facing the back of a police car. The city in addition will reduce the growth of new criminals and existing crimes by reducing marijuana arrests and criminal records that can make it harder to get a job.

This doesn't mean of course that no marijuana arrests will be made, those possessing more then 15 grams, distributing, underage or smoking marijuana in public for instance will still be arrested and processed.  

The decision was part of an effort to cut time and spending on enforcement and incarceration, while raising revenue for the city. The time saved processing arrests for small amounts of cannabis will now be spent on more important criminal matters like violent crimes and Chicago's rising homicide rate.

According to Mayor Emanuel's office, there were more then 18,000 arrests for possession of less then ten grams last year. Each case took the time of at least four police officers per one offender for the initial arresting process alone. They also sited the ridiculously overcrowded Cook County court and jail system. 

Regardless of the new ordinance however, police officers will still have the authority to arrest people rather than ticket them. This rises question about whether this new measure came with an immediate rather inconvenient loophole. Some are making the argument that this will give police the right to enforce the law in a discriminative manner. Those officers who are die hard anti-marijuana, may act in protest of the ordinance while enforcing the law, which could lead to more unbalanced consequences for users.

Either way, let's keep taking these steps in the right direction America.

Alex Webb