Chicago approves marijuana ordinance

By WEEK Reporter

June 27, 2012 Updated Oct 26, 2013 at 2:27 AM CDT

CHICAGO, Ill. -- Starting in August, getting caught with a small amount of marijuana in Chicago will no longer lead to an automatic arrest.

Instead, police will issue tickets to those caught with 15 grams or less of marijuana. The fines would range from $250 and $500.

Some officials say the new law will allow police to spend more time patrolling streets and less time processing people on these minor offenses, which are typically dismissed without punishment.

While the drug will still be illegal, the city of Chicago will benefit through an estimated $7 million a year in revenue.

Despite the potential financial gain, some alderman say that the law isn't sending the right message to our youth.

Alderman Roberto Maldonado says "Aren't you sending the mixed message that it is equally ok to light up the marijuana cigarettes? Because why would you be carrying marijuana in the first place?"

In a statement, Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said that the arrests of more than 18,000 people for misdemeanor possession of marijuana "tied up more than 45,000 police hours" and that the "new ordinance nearly cuts that time in half ... freeing up cops to address more serious crime."

Now, Chicago is the not the first city to enact this ordinance. In fact 14 states have already decriminalized marijuana possession making it a civil penalty.