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McCarthy Open To Changes In Marijuana Policy, But Not Decriminalization

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Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy (Photo courtesy Steve Miller, WBBM)

Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy (Photo courtesy Steve Miller, WBBM)

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CHICAGO (CBS) — Police Supt. Garry McCarthy says he has no problem with treating low-level drug cases differently, but he draws the line at decriminalizing marijuana.

As WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports, marijuana possession can merit only a ticket in some Chicago suburbs, and unincorporated sections of the county that are patrolled by the Sheriff’s police.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports

McCarthy said Thursday that he can live with similar sanctions in the city, but he cannot accept decriminalization, as he said was the situation in New York.

“I’m obviously overstating it,” McCarthy said. “But if you get caught with an ounce of cocaine, you go to jail for 20 years. You get caught with a truckload of marijuana, you get a ticket. That’s problematic.”

At a City Council budget hearing, McCarthy added that any reduction of penalties for marijuana sales is a slippery slope.

Ald. Danny Solis (25th) announced Thursday that he plans to introduce an ordinance that would require those found with less than 10 grams of marijuana to pay a $200 fine and do 10 hours of community service, instead of facing jail time.

Solis and Cook County Commissioner John Fritchey (D-12th) said the ordinance would reduce the cost of jailing those who are caught with small amounts of the substance and encourage law enforcement to focus their efforts on more serious infractions.

Fritchey said the war on alcohol during the era of Prohibition lasted 14 years and didn’t work. He says the war on drugs has lasted 40 years and hasn’t worked in terms of marijuana.

“We’re not talking about decriminalizing it, although there are a lot of calls for it,” said Ald. Richard Mell (33rd). “We’re talking about making some common sense – writing a ticket.”

Back in July, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle called on McCarthy to end low-level marijuana arrests in the city. She declared that the war on drugs has failed, and said marijuana defendants are contributing to overcrowding in the Cook County Jail.

Also in July, the Chicago Reader published a cover story, with an analysis that found that despite widespread use of marijuana across racial groups, a disproportionate number of those arrested, charged and convicted are African-American.

The analysis by Reader reporter-columnists Ben Joravsky and Mick Dumke found that of those arrested for marijuana possession last year and the year before, 78 percent were black, 17 percent were Hispanic, and only 5 percent were white.

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