CHICAGO (CN) – Mayor Rahm Emanuel has not declared where he stands on an alderman’s plan to help solve Chicago’s budget woes by making possession of small amounts of marijuana a ticketable offense, with a $200 fine. Alderman Danny Solis proposed the law to the City Council on Wednesday, saying it could raise $7 million a year, and save police and courts more money and time.
Similar laws exist elsewhere, but unlike in most places, where discussion centers on the dangers of the drug, the discussion in Chicago has focused on money and wasted resources. Most misdemeanor cases for possession of small amounts of pot are dismissed, Solis said.
His law would be stricter than similar laws in Los Angeles and New York.
In California, possession of an ounce (28.4 grams) of marijuana is considered no more serious than a speeding ticket. In New York people caught with up to 25 grams are ticketed only if the drug is in public view.
Under Solis’ ordinance, police could ticket who possesses 10 grams or less of the drug, and the offense could be cleared with a $200 fine and up to 10 hours of community service.
Currently, the offense is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a $1,500 fine.
“In these trying times of the economy, we could really use the revenue generated by fines versus arrests,” Solis told The Associated Press. “And each (arrest) means police officers are spending an inordinate amount of time outside the neighborhoods, inside the district offices doing paperwork.”
Of the 8,625 misdemeanor marijuana cases between 2006 and 2010, 84 percent (7,227) were dismissed, according to statistics from the Cook County Circuit Clerk. Officials say the city spends $78 million a year on marijuana arrests.
The ordinance in not expected to get a full vote of the City Council vote until early in 2012.
Mayor Emanuel told reporters he would refer the law to the police chief.
Chicago faces an annual budget deficit estimated at $636 million.