Chicago police still arresting for small marijuana possession - FOX 32 News Chicago

Chicago police still arresting for small marijuana possession

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

A new study says people who are caught with small amounts of marijuana in Chicago are most often arrested despite an ordinance that allows officers to write tickets and send offenders on their way.

The research was conducted by Kathie Kane Willis of Roosevelt University's Illinois Consortium on Drug Policy. The study looked at municipalities that passed a ticketing ordinance for possession of smaller amounts of cannabis. In Chicago, under 15 grams of pot can be ticketed. The study also shows 93 percent of last year's misdemeanor marijuana possession violations led to arrests.

"In Champaign, in Countryside, in Evanston, you're more likely to be ticketed than arrested. In Urbana, Yorkville, in Chicago, you're more likely to get arrested than ticketed," said Willis.

Before the ordinance was passed in 2012, supporters including Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy and Mayor Rahm Emanuel, said it would free officers to fight serious crime because writing tickets takes far less time than making arrests.

In some of the city's west and south side communities, those arrests comprised in large part of African-Americans and Latinos.

Residents weren't surprised by the findings.

"This is what is constantly going on in our community and it's sad that they only target certain communities," said Chicago resident Edward Gibson.

Police spokesman Adam Collins says the department is making progress implementing the ordinance. He says 5,000 fewer people were arrested for low-level marijuana possession in 2013 than 2011.

"The City is making progress, with 5,000 fewer arrests for low level cannabis possession last year than in 2011. We will continue looking for ways to improve our implementation of the existing cannabis ordinance, and possibly even improving the ordinance itself, so our officers can focus on illegal guns and reducing violent crime," said Supt. Garry McCarthy.

For groups like the Illinois Chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, this could be fixed with state reform.

"Those would at least set a statewide standard to ensure that you would have the same policies being followed all over the state," said Ali Nagib of the Illinois Chapter of NORML.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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