Fines Drop, Auto Seizures End Under Chicago's New Cannabis Proposal

Marijuana fines in Chicago would drop drastically under new guidelines to be introduced by Mayor Lori Lightfoot at Wednesday morning’s City Council meeting. 

Under the new ordinance, designed to bring Chicago’s code into alignment with the state’s new legal cannabis laws, penalties for unlawful possession will drop from the current fines of as much as $500 for first-time minor offenses, to just $50. In addition, Chicago police will no longer automatically impound vehicles containing any amount of marijuana. 

Under the state’s revised marijuana laws, possession will be legal up to 30 grams of cannabis flower. And transportation of pot under those limits in an automobile will be permitted, as long as it is in a sealed container. 

“For far too long, unjust and outdated cannabis enforcement laws have adversely and disproportionately affected Chicago’s black and brown neighborhoods,” Lightfoot said in a statement. “The legalization of cannabis in Illinois presents a powerful opportunity to reform our policies, and right these generation-old wrongs of the past as we work to ensure a safe, fair, and responsible implementation in Chicago.” 

The new ordinance will also amend Chicago Police enforcement protocols to educate officers on the new state law, outlining areas which will still be considered illegal, including smoking cannabis in any public place, in an automobile, or any area where smoking is prohibited under the Smoke Free Illinois Act. 

“By overturning outdated cannabis laws, Chicago’s police officers will finally have a smart, sensible, and safe framework that prioritizes public safety of all residents in this city,” Supt. Eddie Johnson said in a statement. “Over the coming months, the Department will be working to ensure every officer has the necessary training and tools needed to enforce these reformed laws and keep Chicago’s communities safe.” 

In a future ordinance, Lightfoot may specify guidelines for marijuana consumption at cannabis businesses. The state's new laws permit such facilities, but leave details up to individual communities. 

The amendments to the Chicago Municipal Code would be implemented Jan. 1, the same day the state’s legalization of recreational cannabis goes into effect.

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