Solis Starts ‘Pot Ticket' Debate

Stopping just short of saying that marijuana should be decriminalized, a group of Chicago aldermen have introduced an ordinance, calling for enforcement of current marijuana laws to become much simpler, the equivalent of writing a traffic ticket.

25th Ward Alderman Danny Solis says he has the support of at least 20 other aldermen in his effort, where residents caught with ten grams of marijuana or less would be written tickets, with fines of $200.  His aim, he says, is to free police to track more serious crimes.  

Solis said police had provided him with statistics indicating that two-officer teams averaged one and a half hours per pot arrest.  With 47,000 marijuana cases in the last two years, he said that meant some 84,000 hours those same officers could have been pursuing violent offenders.

“I am concerned about this ordinance helping to get more police into our neighborhoods, so they can help protect our citizens,” Solis said.  “That’s the bottom line for me.”

21st ward alderman Howard Brookins said for years he has watched, as officers were forced to wait for hours on end to testify in marijuana cases.

“What this is saying is our resources are stretched,” Brookins said.  “Our streets are dangerous.  We need the police out policing.”

Mayor Emanuel said he had heard similar complaints from tactical officers about wasted hours on pot cases, but wanted more information before he committed to the proposed change.

“If you look at other cities who have done this, they have also created their own sets of problems,” he said.

The mayor insisted it does not good to address the enforcement component of marijuana laws, if the criminal justice end is not addressed as well.

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