As Chicago starts ticketing for marijuana, how much time will this actually save police officers?

August 3, 2012

The Chicago Police Department said its officers are ready to start writing tickets for marijuana possession when a new ordinance takes effect Saturday.

The point of all this, according to Mayor Rahm Emanuel, is to reduce the number of low-level pot possession arrests so officers could be freed-up to stop more serious crime.

Really a big time-saver?

But giving out marijuana tickets is not going to be as fast and simple as writing a routine traffic violation.

According to a police department directive, officers will write the tickets on the spot, and then “without undue delay," take the suspected drug back to the station. That’s where the weed will be tested to see if it’s really weed.

After that, the arresting officer will have to inventory the testing materials, and then - more paperwork. Still, the police department insists the tickets will be less time-consuming for officers than arrests are.

A long list of exceptions

Not everyone caught with marijuana will be sent on their way with a ticket. If a suspect has more than 15 grams of weed, they would face arrest. Or what if they’re walking through a park or on school grounds? Arrested. 16 years old? Arrested. And what if the suspect is caught actually smoking a joint? Arrested.

And if they're found with marijuana while in a car? They’d get a ticket, but - also - the car would be impounded.

The ticket fines for low-level pot possession will range from $250 to $500. But that car impound fine will set back a pot-possessor at least another $2,000.