Evanston Illinois mayor proposes mellowing of pot possession penalty
By. Jonathan Bullington
Evanston Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl thinks anyone caught with 10 grams or less of pot does not intend to sell it, and so should only be ticketed and fined — not jailed.
She recently asked the city's legal department to draft an ordinance that lightens the penalty for anyone possessing small amounts of marijuana. Tisdahl said she wants to keep a young person's criminal record from hindering employment.
A city committee will study the proposed ordinance once staff drafts it, Tisdahl said.
"I do not want young people in Evanston who do not have access to high-powered attorneys to have arrest records for possessing less than 10 grams," Tisdahl said in an email. "I want them to have jobs. A ticket and a fine will suffice."
Evanston's ordinances now say that anyone found in possession of 10 grams or less of marijuana could be fined between $50 and $500. State law dictates that possession of between 2.5 and 10 grams of marijuana is a class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and up to a $1,500 fine. It's up to police which penalty to pursue.
"The state charge is typically always given for that type of offense," said police spokesman Cmdr. James Elliot. However, when dealing with a juvenile, Elliot said police tend to issue an ordinance violation — particularly if the juvenile is a first-time offender.
Tisdahl's proposed ordinance could remove that discretion and keep all those busted with small amounts of pot — regardless of age — out of the court system, putting them into the city's administrative adjudication process.
The law change would place Evanston among a growing number of communities that are rethinking the way they prosecute marijuana possession.
Welcome to WhyProhibition.ca. We are working to repeal the prohibition of cannabis by organizing and educating the public. Sign up to get activism alerts, and access to organizing tools.
Already signed up? Login Below:
We need your postal code to identify your Member of Parliament! Register to find out your Member of Parliament!