Chicago stalls on marijuana tickets; suburbs reap them
By Casey Toner email@example.com November 4, 2011 10:46PM
AP file photo
Chicago aldermen recently proposed an ordinance that would allow police to issue tickets to those carrying small amounts of marijuana instead of charging them.
Many Southland towns have had similar policies in effect for years.
How many such tickets in some of those municipalities were given out in 2010?
Oak Forest 104
Evergreen Park 33
Park Forest 75
Orland Park 162
Tinley Park 120
Updated: January 23, 2012 4:32AM
Carrying a pinch of marijuana in Orland Park and a cop busts you for the first time? That might mean a wag of the finger and a village ticket.
But if you’re in Chicago and the same thing happens — look out. The offense could carry jail time.
Aiming to free up police resources and unclog courtrooms, Chicago aldermen proposed an ordinance last week allowing police to ticket people carrying small amounts of pot instead of arresting them.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel has yet to endorse the policy. But if Chicago approved the plan, the city would join Southland towns such as Orland Park, Tinley Park and Oak Forest that have been enforcing similar measures for years.
In 2008, Chicago Heights adopted a law that gives police officers the discretion to write tickets to people for pot possession instead of arresting and charging them.
“I’d rather have officers spending time on the issues that mean more to the community than on minor marijuana arrests that may not mean as much,” Chicago Heights Police Chief Michael Camilli said.
Evergreen Park approved a marijuana ordinance in 2009 allowing officers to give first- and second-time offenders a ticket. The first ticket is for $200, the second ticket is increased to $500. A person there doesn’t face criminal charges until after getting caught with pot three times.
Orland Park has a similar system in place. First-time offenders caught with under 10 grams of marijuana are issued municipal tickets and are given a local hearing date. Subsequent arrests will result in criminal charges and a trip to the Bridgeview courthouse.
“The offender has the opportunity to correct their ways, not do it again,” Orland Park Police Chief Tim McCarthy said. “It’s a good common sense approach.”
Tinley Park Interim Police Chief Phil Valois said village officers will issue a municipal ticket if the person is carrying less than 2.5 grams. Everyone who is ticketed gets a hearing date at the Bridgeview courthouse, along with the recipients of all other village tickets.
In Oak Forest, police can choose to give a citation to anyone caught with less than 10 grams of marijuana.
“The advantage for younger people is that it’s not attached to job histories and military,” Police Chief Greg Anderson said, adding that it also cuts down on courthouse overcrowding and police overtime. “It basically gives a person another chance.”
One supporter of marijuana decriminalization is Dan Linn, the director of the Illinois chapter of the National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws.
“It will prevent young people and poor people from getting criminal records which would hold them back later in life,” Linn said. “Police would spend more time going after more dangerous criminals.”
South Suburban Association of Chiefs of Police president William Joyce said he is against the legalization of the drug as well as medicinal marijuana but supports issuing citations to people caught carrying small amounts.
“It seems like the only way to get people to pay attention is maybe hitting them with a fine, hitting them in their pocket,” Joyce said.
Joyce, who is also the South Chicago Heights police chief, said he worried that a ticketing system would encourage drug dealers to walk around with minimal amounts of pot.
“Instead of getting arrested as a dealer, he’ll get arrested as a user,” Joyce said.
Lt. David Basile, who heads a community policing unit for the Chicago Heights Police Department, questions if the decriminalization of marijuana will open the floodgates for harder drugs. He also speculated about the future of marijuana possession laws — not only in Chicago but in the nation.
“I think as time goes on, it will be decriminalized,” Basile said. “It’s a new generation, my friend, a new generation. People are more tolerant. It’s not way up there on the Richter scale anymore.”