by Todd Feurer, CBS Chicago web producer
CHICAGO (CBS) — Seeking to allay fears people could be punished for smoking pot on their own porches or in their own yards even after recreational marijuana becomes legal in Illinois next year, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Thursday that police will not arrest or ticket anyone for that reason alone.
The state law allowing for recreational use of marijuana still prohibits smoking weed in public, and defines a public place as anywhere “a person could reasonably be expected to be observed by others.”
Legally speaking, that means someone could get arrested or ticketed for using pot on their own property, if they do it in their own yard, or on the balcony of an apartment building.
The mayor said that won’t be the case in Chicago.
“The Chicago Police Department recognizes that an individual using cannabis in their own backyard or balcony poses no direct threat to public safety, and no resident should be arrested or ticketed solely for such a scenario,” Lightfoot said in a statement Thursday afternoon.
The mayor and interim Police Supt. Charlie Beck said the department has been training all 13,000 officers on the new marijuana law, including how they should focus on informing people about the restrictions included in the statute, rather than automatically ticketing anyone caught using pot where they shouldn’t.
“We’re all working through the new world order together,” Lightfoot said at an unrelated event Thursday morning. “The police department is putting out some specific training to make sure that officers understand that in this new world, marijuana’s obviously legalized. That changes, entirely, what the regulatory framework is going to be, and I expect them to follow the law.”
Last month, the City Council approved an ordinance scaling back the penalties for smoking pot in public. Now, first-time offenders face fines of $250 to $500 for violations involving less than 30 grams of pot, and additional fines of $500 for any subsequent violations within 30 days. Starting next year, those penalties are reduced to $50 for a first offense, and $100 for subsequent offenses within 30 days.
The new state law allows anyone who is 21 or older to use marijuana in their own homes, but prohibits it virtually everywhere else; including vehicles, public places, homes used as daycare centers, correctional facilities, or any building where the state already bans the smoking of tobacco.
Marijuana use would be allowed at licensed tobacco shops and marijuana dispensaries.