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Why Pot Prosecution Drains the System

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Why Pot Prosecution Drains the System

This week’s Chicago Reader bolsters Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s case for ending arrests and prosecutions of pot smokers. Staff writers Ben Joravsky and Mick Dumke follow three possession cases: a guy caught with one gram of marijuana, a guy who says the weed was his brother’s and a guy who’s been caught so many times he thinks he knows how to beat the system.

Among their findings:

  • Fifteen times as many blacks as whites are arrested for marijuana possession, even though whites are a majority of Cook County residents, and smoke just as much pot.
     
  • On the day Joravsky and Dumke visited Misdemeanor Court at Harrison and Kedzie, 14 of the 78 cases were marijuana offenses.
  • “The overflow of cases has led to an erratic enforcement of the law. Con men know how to slide through the system, and armed dealers sometimes face lesser penalties than people randomly caught on the street with a few bucks' worth of weed.”
  • Preckwinkle isn’t the only public official who has reservations about our marijuana laws. So does Cook County State’s Atty. Anita Alvarez. When the Reader asks what pot prosecutions are accomplishing, she responds, “I’m struggling with that question. It’s the law, and we have to follow the law.”
  • As executive office-holders, Preckwinkle and Alvarez are not in a position to change the law. The General Assembly won’t even legalize medical marijuana. So far, 14 states have decriminalized marijuana possession. Most recently, in June, Connecticut changed the penalty for possession of less than a half-ounce from a misdemeanor to a civil infraction, punishable by a $150 fine. Proponents cited a study by the Office of Legal Research that found decriminalization “significantly reduced” court costs. 
     

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