Pubdate: Fri, 08 Oct 2004
Source: Kansas City Star (MO)
Copyright: 2004 The Kansas City Star
Author: Associated Press
Note: DrugSense FOCUS Alert #294
Bookmark: (Cannabis)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


CHICAGO - Mayor Richard Daley, a former prosecutor, runs the nation's
third-largest city with a pragmatic, law-and-order style.

So when he starts complaining about the waste of time and money
involved in prosecuting small-time marijuana cases, people take notice.

"This is absolutely a big deal," said Andy Ko, director of the Drug
Policy Reform Project for the American Civil Liberties Union in
Washington state. "You've got a mayor in a major American city.coming
out in favor of a smart and fair and just drug policy."

What Daley did was to say late last month that a police sergeant was
on to something when he suggested it might be better to impose fines
between $250 and $1,000 for possession of small amounts of marijuana
rather than prosecute the cases.

Sgt. Thomas Donegan determined that nearly 7,000 cases involving 2.5
grams of pot or less were filed last year in Chicago. About 94 percent
were dismissed.

Daley wondered whether ticketing offenders might be smarter. "If 99
percent of the cases are thrown out and we have police officers going
(to court to testify in the cases), why?" the mayor said. "It costs a
lot of money for police officers to go to court."

Police officers are used to spending hours making arrests, writing
reports and waiting in court, only to see the charges dropped or a
guilty plea that leads to nothing more than probation or
drug-education classes.

Police and defendants know it is rare for anyone arrested for possessing a
small amount of marijuana to get the maximum penalty in Illinois: 30 days in
jail and a $1,500 fine.
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MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin