Chicago Marijuana Tickets: City Nets $98,000 In Fines During New Law's First 5 Months

FILE - This Nov. 8, 2012 file photo shows marijuana plants flourishing under the lights at a grow house in Denver. President
FILE - This Nov. 8, 2012 file photo shows marijuana plants flourishing under the lights at a grow house in Denver. President Barack Obama says he won't go after Washington state and Colorado for legalizing marijuana. In a Barbara Walters interview airing Friday on ABC, Obama is asked whether he supports making pot legal. He says, "I wouldn't go that far." (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski, File)

Since the city of Chicago implemented its new marijuana ticketing law early last August, it has reportedly issued nearly 400 citations and netted nearly $98,000 worth of fines for low-level possession of the drug citywide.

According to RedEye, 380 citations, which come with a fine ranging from $250 to $500, for marijuana possession up to 15 grams were issued between Aug. 4 and Dec. 25. August was the month during which the most tickets were issued.

When the City Council approved the proposal last June, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and a number of aldermen argued that the ordinance's passage would free up police officers to spend more time on the street rather than dealing with the paperwork associated with arresting marijuana offenders.

Other supporters applauded the new law for reducing the jail population and addressing the high racial disparity when it came to those who face marijuana arrests, charges and convictions. Though marijuana use is relatively even throughout the city, those arrested for possessing the drug are disproportionately African-American.

But police still are directed to arrest marijuana offenders of any level caught in a school or park district facility. Officers also still have the option to make a marijuana arrest under 15 grams elsewhere if they see fit and it would appear that many are still choosing to do exactly that. Under a similar ordinance previously proposed by Alderman Danny Solis in November 2011, Solis said the city would stand to gain as much as $7 million in additional annual revenue from marijuana citations capped at the possession of 10 grams.

Though the marijuana ticketing law ultimately approved last summer actually increased the maximum amount of cannabis that one could be ticketed, rather than arrested for, from 10 to 15 grams, the city is still lagging far behind Solis' estimated revenue boost.

Once the 2012 citation figures are extrapolated, the city is only on track to take in about 3 percent of Solis' $7 million figure in the law's first year.

A portion of the revenue from marijuana citations was slated to be reinvested in drug education and substance abuse programs, according to a June 2012 press release from Emanuel's office.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly spelled Ald. Danny Solis' name.



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