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Chicago City Council OKs Fines Instead Of Arrests For Pot Possession

The Chicago City Council voted overwhelmingly to approve a new policy on marijuana possession.

The policy gives police the option of giving a fine to those caught with less than 15 grams. The fine could range between $250 and $500 and doesn't apply to minors or those carrying pot on a park or school grounds, reports The Chicago Tribune.

Previously, law required police to arrest the person and charge them with a misdemeanor.

NPR's Cheryl Corley explained this morning:

"Mayor Rahm Emanuel says that after a ride with Chicago police officers in the gang crimes unit, he knew there had to be a better alternative: Police said they spent too much time on the streets and in courtrooms because of low-level marijuana cases that are dismissed nearly nine out of 10 times.

"'It's not decriminalization,' Emanuel says. 'It's dealing with it in a different way, a different penalty. And I want police officers fighting the crimes that need to be fought.'

"That means going after the big drug dealers and gang bangers, he says, in a city where homicides have jumped 35 percent. Under the proposed change, a person 18 or older who is found with about a half-ounce or less could get a ticket and go on their way, provided they have proper ID and aren't wanted for another crime."

Chicago is the third largest city in the country, and the Tribune notes that it becomes part of a wave of states and cities adopting reduced penalties.

According to NORML, a pro-marijuana lobby, 14 states have already decriminalized marijuana.

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