Cook County Board expands enforcement of marijuana ticketing

September 7, 2011

An ordinance that expands ticketing for low-level marijuana possession passed the Cook County Board Wednesday.

All but three commissioners voted for an amendment that allows the sheriff's office to give $200 tickets for posession of 10 grams or less of marijuana in towns or villages where there is no other police force. As of now, the only place that fits that description is Ford Heights, a village far south of Chicago.

Board members also decided Wednesday that offenders of any age can recieve tickets for marijuana possession. The original ordinance only applied to residents who were 17 or older. After much debate, board members decided to strike that component.

"I don't want to create a situation where we're out defending this eight months from now because minors are being viewed differently by the Cook County [Sheriff's Department] than someone at the age of 17--it seems the penalty is greater on a minor," Commissioner Jeff Tobolksi said. "I would have a problem with this if I had two kids and one was 15 and got processed and one was 17 and got a ticket. I'd have a hell of a problem with that."

Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle has said the measure is a step toward keeping non-violent offenders outside the criminal justice system. But the sheriff's office says it doesn't think the ordinance is the best way to do that.

The amendment will go into effect in 60 days.