Pot ticketing plan passes City Council

June 27, 2012

(Getty/File)

Chicago police officers later this summer will start issuing tickets for people caught with less than 15 grams of marijuana. That's after the city council signed off on an ordinance pushed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Forty-three aldermen voted yes, and three voted against the proposal to give police the option of ticketing - instead of arresting - some people caught with marijuana.

Ald. Howard Brookins (21st) supported the plan, which he said could help undue a racial disparity.

"If you had been white and/or privileged, small amounts of marijuana had already been decriminalized, because the only people that who have been arrested for these types of crimes have been black and brown individuals," Brookins said on the council floor.

Statistics from the Chicago police pretty much back that up. Last year, white people accounted for less than 5 percent of lower-level marijuana possession arrests.

This new ordinance wouldn't save people from arrest who are caught actually actually weed, instead of just carrying it. But Ald. Robert Maldanado (26th) said people hanging out on corners will likely see it differently.

"They're going to perceive and misinterpret the law - the new ordinance - that it is a license to be able to smoke marijuana in public," Maldonado said before voting against the proposal.

In his remarks in the debate, Ald. John Pope (10th) used a variation of a talking point Emanuel has employed often in the past few weeks: that the ordinance will free up police to focus on violent crimes.

"This is not about decriminalizing. It's about being efficient and being realistic," Pope said. "We need our police resources to go where there are crimes. The people on the street realize that - to some extent - this is a petty offense, and taking our police officers away from those type of activities where they are really needed."

The ordinance goes into effect August 4th. The police department said it will continue to arrest minors found with weed, or anyone caught possessing it in parks or on school grounds.