Weis weighs in on tickets for marijuana possession

December 13, 2011

(WBEZ/Robert Wildeboer)
Former Chicago Police Superintendent Jody Weis at his office at the Chicago Crime Commission

Former Chicago Police Superintendent Jody Weis says the city has to consider giving tickets -- like traffic tickets -- to people caught with small amounts of pot instead of arresting them but he's also warning about potential pitfalls that elected officials aren't thinking about.

Proponents of ticketing for marijuana often say it will help to get rid of racial disparities in arrest rates for drug possession but Weis says African American kids on the city's south and west sides often don't carry ID.  "You can't give a ticket to someone unless you can identify them," says Weis.

That means that kids without ID would have to be arrested and Weis thinks there will be a racial disparity between kids who get tickets and kids who are arrested.

Weis says he opposes decriminalizing pot because he says you can't send the message to kids that drugs are okay but he says from a cost perspective the city has to consider alternative sanctions.  He says a single drug arrest can take several hours of an officer's time and he says "95 percent of those cases are tossed so you could say that that money was wasted."

Weis says tickets would be good because cops can write them quickly and be back on the street in a few minutes.

Weis also says because of the way overtime pay is given to cops for court appearances they may have an incentive to arrest people for pot possession instead of handing out tickets.  It's one of the points he makes in his conversation with WBEZ's Robert Wildeboer.  You can listen to the whole 7 minute discussion here: