Cook County going to pot COUNTY BOARD | Users may get just a ticket in some areas
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
by Lisa Donovan
If you’re busted carrying a small amount of marijuana in portions of
Cook County patrolled by the sheriff’s police, you may get off with
just a ticket.
In a move that caught the sheriff’s office off
guard, the county board on Tuesday voted to decriminalize possession of
less than 10 grams of pot in unincorporated areas of Cook County. Those
are the parts of the county not claimed by Chicago or its suburbs.
measure, which needs to be approved by Board President Todd Stroger to
take effect, gives sheriff’s police and sheriff’s deputies patrolling
the unincorporated areas the latitude to arrest a suspect on a
misdemeanor charge or, under the new ordinance, hit them with a $200
ticket if they’re carrying 10 grams or less.
Leading the charge was Cmsr. Earlean Collins, a Democrat who
admitted her grandson was busted for carrying a small amount of
marijuana. She said arrests like that clog the jails.
“They got my grandson...he had a half of joint in the car,” Collins
said. “They stopped him. They took him to the police station. They
impounded his car and let him out the next morning. Why do that?
“A lot of kids make a mistake, have a little marijuana, and they can avoid going to jail or court.”
A spokesman for Sheriff Tom Dart, whose deputies and officers would
administer the law, said the sheriff’s office was caught off guard by
the timing of the vote.
Spokesman Steve Patterson said the sheriff was expecting a series of public hearings before a vote.
Instead, the vote was taken on the same day the county board voted to scale back last year’s controversial sales tax hike.
“We’d like there to be some discussion on it before it takes effect,” Patterson said.
If Stroger signs the ordinance, it would take effect in 60 days. Stroger said he wasn’t sure if he’ll sign or veto it.
“I don’t know,” Stroger told CBS2. “I wasn’t paying enough attention
to it. I’ll find out about it later. I can’t comment on it.”
The ticket option also means a bust won’t result in a criminal
record. It was unclear, however, what might happen to repeat offenders.
Collins said an administrative procedure would be available to those who want to fight a ticket.
Commissioner Gregg Goslin, a Republican who voted against the
measure, said any laws to decriminalize pot should be done by the state.
“You can’t have a patchwork quilt of law in every county. That law should be voted on at the state level,” Goslin said.
“It gives too much discretion to police officers. It’s either against the law or it’s not. You need to have one standard.
“I think it was as the wrong thing to do.”
Nearly five years ago, Mayor Daley embraced a police sergeant’s
proposal to ticket people for small amounts of marijuana — from $250
for 10 grams of pot to $1,000 for 20 to 30 grams — but the plan never
got off the ground.
“It’s decriminalized now,” Daley said at the time. “They throw all
the cases out. It doesn’t mean anything. You just show up to court.
Another case goes out. That's all it is. There's nothing there. They
don’t even show up — the offenders. It doesn’t mean anything.”