Former White House Chief of Staff and current Mayor of Chicago has come out in support of what is quickly becoming a nation-wide trend. Mayor Rahm Emanuel said earlier today that he would back a proposal to decriminalize possessing small amounts of marijuana.
Emanuel is just the latest US political figure to support rolling back penalties for marijuana use. When the ordinance was proposed last year, Emanuel asked to have a police analysis done to see if the law reform would make sense. In a statement today, the mayor said that the results of that analysis was that reducing the processing time for minor possession of marijuana would ultimately free up police officers for the street.
According to Chicago police department statistics, last year there were 18,298 arrests in the city for possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana. Every arrest involves about four officers, two arresting, and two transporting the defendant plus the burdens on the already over-burdened Cook County jail and court system. According to Police Superintendent Garry McCarthey, marijuana arrests for small amounts tied up more than 45,000 police hours last year. It is estimated that the new ordinance would cut those police hours in half, saving about one million dollars while freeing up the police to address more serious crime.
Under the proposed ordinance, police officers will have the discretion to issue tickets with fines ranging from $100 to $500 for people caught with less than 15 grams of marijuana and issue a ticket on the spot. Currently anyone caught with any marijuana is facing a judge and up to six months in jail and up to a $1500 fine.
Chicago would only be the latest in a growing number of large American Cities that are reducing penalties associated with marijuana crimes. Seattle, New York, Portland, Madison and recently the nation’s capital, Washington DC have all made similar moves. The ordinance will most likely be voted on during the City Council meeting June 27, and with the support of both the Mayor, the Chicago Police Department, and the group of council members who first proposed the idea, it looks like its on a course to become a reality.