Decriminalize Small Quantities of Marijuana

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Target: Illinois legislators

Goal: Decriminalize the possession of 15 grams or less of marijuana in Chicago

Drug-related arrests clog jails all across the country as individuals caught with even small quantities of marijuana are cuffed and charged with a crime. Last year, the Chicago Police Department arrested a total of 18,298 people simply for possessing less than 10 grams of marijuana. In a city where major violent crime still affects residents’ lives on a daily basis, squandering police resources on minor drug offenses is wasteful, irresponsible and harmful. What’s more, these arrests disproportionately target poor and minority individuals, disrupting families and building tension within vulnerable communities.

Thankfully, Mayor Rahm Emmanuel has just backed a plan to decriminalize small quantities of marijuana. Under the new law, individuals would only be fined between $100 and $500 for carrying 15 grams or less of pot. Current laws dictate that those caught in a misdemeanor drug charge may be punished by up to six months in jail and a $1,500 fine. Because issuing small fines requires only one police officer as opposed to the four necessary for a full arrest, the decriminalization of marijuana would free up Chicago police resources tremendously. CPD superintendent Garry McCarthy estimates that the revised law would free up more than 20,000 hours of police time, equivalent to $1 million in department savings.

Possession of marijuana is not a dangerous crime and should not be punished with resource-wasting arrests and criminal charges. It’s time that Chicago joined the ranks of cities who have already decriminalized small amounts of the drug. Tell Illinois lawmakers to advance this new ordinance to decriminalize marijuana.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Illinois legislators,

Arresting Chicago residents for possession of small quantities of marijuana amounts to an undue burden on the city’s judicial system. Nonviolent offenders who await trials for drug charges currently cost the city $165 each per day, while full-scale arrests of drug users divert valuable police time to minor crimes. And such arrests disproportionately affect poor and minority communities, driving up the rates of crime in Chicago’s most vulnerable neighborhoods.

Mayor Rahm Emmanuel now supports a plan to decriminalize the possession of 15 grams or less of the drug. The money saved from this initiative could be used to fund drug treatment programs or provide group housing for individuals struggling with mental illness. By taking a rehabilitative approach to drug use rather than a penalizing one, the city of Chicago could more efficiently allocate its valuable police resources. I ask that you advance this new ordinance and see that the possession of small amounts of marijuana is no longer an offense worthy of arrest.

Sincerely,
[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Michael Baird via Flickr.

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