Chicago Teens under 17 would be Arrested under new Pot Ticketing Plan

21 Jun, 2012

Teens under 17 and those without proper identification won’t be ticketed under Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana — they’ll still be arrested and carted off to jail.

Everyone else could be fined $250 to $500 for the first offense, up from a minimum of $100 the administration had considered earlier. If someone is nabbed again within 30 days, they would automatically be issued a $500 ticket.

Those specifics emerged Wednesday as Emanuel unveiled his pot ticket ordinance and tried to address concerns from aldermen who raised questions about how the plan would be enforced.

A City Council committee will hear the details Thursday as Emanuel aides make the case for giving police officers the discretion to issue tickets for people carrying 15 grams or less of marijuana. If the full City Council passes the ordinance next week, it would go into effect by early July.

A majority of council members is sponsoring the measure, but several aldermen have expressed reservations about the message it sends.

“I expect aldermen to ask questions like I asked questions. I expect them to work through this issue,” Emanuel said at an unrelated news conference Wednesday, adding that it took him nine months to think about it before backing the idea.

“I didn’t do it lightly, and I don’t expect them to,” he said.

Police officers will undergo field-test training that includes recognition of marijuana, how to use a test kit, how to write up a charge, and identification of packaging for sale, according to the proposed ordinance.

Officers also would take into consideration the number of offenses on a person’s record when deciding how much to fine an offender.

“I would have a concern that implementation was fair, because officers have the ability to give tickets, they don’t have the requirement to give tickets,” said Ald.Patrick O’Connor, 40th, the mayor’s floor leader. “And so you’d want to make sure that statistics don’t later come out and show that certain communities are getting tickets and other communities are still getting arrested.”

Ald.Matthew O’Shea, 19th, said he thought 15 grams might be too high of a threshold, one that could allow some marijuana sellers to evade arrest.

In some neighborhoods, “there’s going to be three gang bangers on every corner with 12 grams apiece on them,” O’Shea said.

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