Chitown Becomes Hightown: Chicago May Decriminalize Marijuana
Wind isn’t the only thing blowing on the streets of Chicago.
Several Chicago councilmen said on Thursday they plan to introduce new legislation that effectively decriminalizes marijuana in small amounts. Instead of being arrested, if you are in possession of less than 10 grams you would be fined two-hundred dollars, twenty hours of community service, and be sent on your way.
“It is not time to act tough on crime; it is (time) to be smart on crime. We need our resources spent somewhere else,” says the county commissioner.
From WBEZ-Chicago (which you may have heard Ira Glass say countless times):
The City Council is going to vote, not in the “hey, smoke em if you got em” decriminalization, but more of a, Here’s an orange ticket for your weed possession instead of a weekend trip to County. The aldermen are pushing this through, although the mayor and police chief are a bit mum (they are open to it, but need to see how it would work). It’s like an episode of “The Wire,” but in Chicago over dime bags.
Parking in a handicapped spot and smoking a doobie in public will essentially be met with the same punishment. Or, for that matter, smoking a doobie in public and then accidentally parking in a handicapped spot. No more pot jokes, though, I swear.
Right now the Chicago police department makes about 23,000 arrests per year for marijuana possession. And in case you were wondering what the toll is now, 11 states have decriminalized it, and 18 the drug allow for medical use.
Although President Obama began his term saying he was in favor of reforming laws concerning marijuana’s regulation, no concrete measures on a federal level have been taken. Additionally, marijuana-related arrests have risen since he took office.
The feds have also cracked down on dispensaries in California, prompting an ongoing battle whose decision might affect medical marijuana’s legality across the country. The federal government has also uncovered a loophole in the tax code to effectively wage war on pot dispensaries using the IRS.
It’s an issue that illuminates the power of states and local government. Chicago police were facing budget cuts, and they needed to reassess where their resources were being spent, so they’re axing marijuana laws. Ultimately it’s up to states and local municipalities to make the call, since it’s catching on now and the federal government will likely be unable to overturn these laws—at least on a local level.