UPDATED 11/02/11 1:45 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — Aldermen have introduced an ordinance that would reduce the penalties for small amounts of marijuana, but they are in no hurry to pass it.
As WBBM Newsradio Political Craig Dellimore reports, under the proposed ordinance, people caught with 10 grams or less of marijuana would face a $200 fine and 10 hours of community service, instead of jail time.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports
Sponsor Ald. Danny Solis (25th) says he wants to hear from the experts and law enforcement so that the best possible ordinance can be crafted.
Solis and Cook County Commissioner John Fritchey (D-12th) said last month that 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.
Ald. Proco “Joe” Moreno (1st) pointed out Wednesday that even though use of marijuana is constant throughout the city, most arrests are of black and Hispanic defendants.
His comments mirror a Chicago Reader cover article published in July, Also in July, Chicago Reader published a cover story, which 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.
Ald. Howard Brookins (21st) said the measure to reduce penalties could standardize enforcement, and increase it. He pointed out that judges often throw low-level marijuana possession cases out anyway.
“When these cases are thrown out, nobody’s fined. Nobody goes to jail. Nobody goes to prison. These people are just released,” Brookins said, “and so at least at this point, there will be a measure of punishment for these people who get stopped with these small amounts of marijuana.”
Former police Supt. Jody Weis weighed in on the proposed ordinance Wednesday.
Weis, now deputy director of the Chicago Crime Commission, says as long as the city doesn’t convey the message that smoking pot is acceptable, the ordinance would indeed keep officers on the street to fight more serious crime if they had the option to ticket people for small amounts of cannabis.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Bernie Tafoya reports
“Probably 97 percent of these cases for the small quantities of marijuana are kicked out by the courts. You’ve got officers spending quite a few hours processing these individuals,” Weis said.
Weis also points out that officers spend time in court raking in overtime pay for cases that are mostly kicked out. He says the city might be able to make up some of that money through fines from tickets.
Also 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.