Cook County may expand law that tickets low level marijuana offenders

September 7, 2011

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(Getty/Uriel Sinai, File)

Cook County commissioners are scheduled to vote Wednesday to expand a law that targets low-level marijuana offenders. But the sheriff's office says even if the new measure is passed, it might not be enforced.

Getting caught with 10 grams or less of marijuana in unincorporated Cook County technically means a $200 dollar ticket. If an ordinance passes today, that rule would extend to municipalities that don't have their own police force. Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said more ticketing for pot possession means fewer arrests of non-violent offenders.

"We're clogging up our criminal justice system with low-level possession arrests for marijuana and it doesn't make sense to treat low level possession in this way," she said. "If we're worried about addiction we oughta be focused on treatment and not incarceration."

But Steve Patterson, a spokesman for the Cook County Sheriff's office, said that's unlikely.

"We have very few people in here on possession with a small amount of marijuana," Patterson said. "Without an underlying or additional charge, they probably wouldn't have come into the jail into the first place."

Patterson said the new ordinance won't cover many areas and he said different rules for different parts of the county make work difficult for officers.