Pubdate: Mon, 27 Sep 2004
Source: Daily Herald (IL)
Copyright: 2004 The Daily Herald Company
Author: Chuck Goudie
Bookmark: (Cannabis)


If your teenagers are suddenly spending time in West suburban Darien,
it may not be for story time at the Indian Prairie Public library.

Some residents must have been taken aback in the town that has decreed
itself "A Nice Place to Live," upon finding out that Darien might also
be looked at as a nice place for marijuana smokers to live it up.

Simple marijuana possession in Darien is treated like jaywalking or
spitting on the sidewalk. Having a joint or two is "punishable" by a
ticket and a fine.

While Darien's modest marijuana ordinance has been on the books since
1977, it popped out of news articles last week concerning a similar
plan floated in the city of Chicago to issue pot tickets.

The scheme, offered by a Chicago police sergeant to raise money and
free up police from court appearances, caught Mayor Richard M. Daley's
eye. A meeting this week between police and prosecutors will smooth
out details.

Daley sees millions in marijuana fines wafting into a depleted city
budget, instead of paying millions to police to attend court for
misdemeanor pot cases, most of which are tossed.

That was the rationale more than 25 years ago in Darien.

"My recollection of that period was that the ordinance was passed to
free up officers' time," Police Chief Bob Pavelchik says.

Darien, population 23,000, doesn't rival Amsterdam's
look-the-other-way approach to casual drug use. The gateway to Downers
Grove doesn't have hash bars or taverns with dope on the menu.

Still, Pavelchik maintains that the laid-back ordinance is a deterrent
because pot users don't know "if they will get a citation or be sent
to criminal court."

According to Darien police statistics, more than 90 percent of the
cases result in a ticket. Since 2003, 50 citations have been issued to
pot possessors, versus only seven criminal arrests on state charges.
The fines on the tickets range from $50 to $500, and payments go into
Darien's general fund.

If Chicago sees dollar signs in the smoke signals, Darien sees a
humanitarian side to the law.

"We do not look at this ordinance as a revenue generator," Pavelchik
says, "but as an opportunity for a first offender (usually a juvenile)
to not have a permanent criminal arrest record."

Clearly, though, by downsizing marijuana use to a municipal violation,
one of the messages is that authorities see personal marijuana use as
small potatoes.

When I heard that Mayor Richard M. had taken such a soft stance, all I
could wonder was how Mayor Richard J., his late father, would react to
making Chicago high-heaven for pot smokers.

The move toward marijuana liberty comes as the city also looks to
relax Sunday drinking laws to accommodate early-imbibing Chicago Bears

Daley favors allowing liquor service beginning at 10 a.m. on Sundays,
instead of 11 a.m. Daley believes fans are entitled to a "champagne

His Honor must have had some bubbles go to his brain prior to
suggesting that. Bears fans don't favor Perrier Jouet mimosas and
truffle quiche. They want salty cashews and a half-dozen shots of Jack
Daniels chased by Miller Genuine Drafts.

We're not in Bedford Falls anymore. With all this attention to weed
smoking and liquor, you'd think gambling casinos were coming next to
- ---
MAP posted-by: Richard Lake