Chicago: Small amounts of pot decriminalized by city council


A smoker tokes a marijuana joint during a march for the legalization of cannabis in Medellin, Colombia on May 5, as part of the 2012 Global Marijuana March that was held in hundreds of cities worldwide.


Raul Arboleda

The Chicago City Council voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana, allowing police to ticket offenders instead of arresting them.

Aldermen voted 43-3 in favor of the ordinance put forth by Mayor Rahm Emanuel. It goes into effect Aug. 4, The Associated Press reported.

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Under the law, police will have the discretion to issue citations between $250 to $500 for someone caught with 15 grams or less of pot, according to the Chicago Tribune.

People caught smoking marijuana or carrying it on park or school grounds will still be subject to arrest, as would those younger than 17 caught with pot or anyone officers believed was trying to sell the drug, according to the Tribune.

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Reuters notes that Chicago joins cities like Seattle, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, as well as university towns like Champaign, Ill., and Madison, Wis., in adopting more lenient policies for pot possession.

While not wanting to send kids the wrong message, several aldermen said the new law will allow police to spend more time on the street and less behind a desk processing minor charges, according to the AP.

The city is trying to put the brakes on a skyrocketing homicide rate and gang violence epidemic, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.