Chicago Pot Decriminalization Ordinance Puff-Puff-Passes Over Tokin’ Resistance

After months of discussion and weeks of debate, Chicago’s move to decriminalize low-level marijuana possession sails through City Council with virtually no dissent.

 

OK, I tried. But my favorite, less-inevitable decriminalization pun came from the Reader’s Ben Joravsky, who was lamenting—sort of—a backlash toward the measure, which decriminalizes (and substantially reduces the fine) for possession of less than 15 grams of marijuana:

Within days Aldermen Roberto Maldonado, Edward Burke and James Balcer said they might not vote for decriminalization, even though they’ve always been true-blue mayoral rubber stampers.

And now, who knows? This may spark our own version of a real Chicago Tea Party!

(People used to call it “tea,” kid.)

While I figured it would pass, I also assumed a fair number of aldermen would vote against it—not enough to create another Beruit by the Lake, but enough to make a stink.

Final tally: 43-3. Not even close. Maldonado, along with Nicholas Sposato and Lona Lane, was one of the votes against:

Ald. Roberto Maldonado said 15 grams is a significant amount of marijuana and he felt the new policy would lead to a spike in public use of weed.

“With the adoption of this ordinance, many of those thugs will perceive and misinterpret the law that it is a license to smoke marijuana in public,” said Maldonado, 26th. “That’s why I cannot come to terms to vote for this ordinance.”

A significant amount? I sense lots of people asking that question at once.

Yup. Just over a half-ounce, the equivalent of 15ish joints, depending on who you ask (and pot users can be as finicky and opinionated as any connoisseur, so that’s a very rough estimate). So it’s fair to say that it represents a significant amount for personal use.

If you want an excellent play-by-play, @DriXander boiled down the debate on Twitter; obviously it wasn’t that much of a “debate,” but it does give a sense of why the vote was so overwhelming. The mayor’s response to Maldonado’s concern was telling:

Also a critical driver of the debate: the massive racial disparities in arrests, as the Reader reported last year.


 

Related: Why Chicago can’t really legalize marijuana; the geography of marijuana arrests.

Photograph: drivebysh00ter (CC by 2.0)

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