Pubdate: Tue, 04 Oct 2011
Source: Daily Northwestern (IL Edu)
Copyright: 2011 The Daily Northwestern
Author: Marshall Cohen


Evanston Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl officially asked the city's legal
department Friday to create an ordinance that would eliminate the
possibility of jail time for anyone caught possessing less than 10
grams of marijuana.

The current law states that anyone found to possess between 2.5 and 10
grams of marijuana could be ticketed, fined up to $1,500 and jailed
for potentially as long as six months.

"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 to the Chicago Tribune. "I want
them to have jobs. A ticket and a fine will suffice."

The change would only affect people who do not intend to sell the
Schedule I drug.

Alds. Judy Fiske (1st) and Jane Grover (7th) did not return calls for
comment Monday.

Reaction on campus has been mixed. Some students, such as SESP
sophomore John Cowgill, believe the mayor has taken a step in the
right direction.

"I agree with the mayor and think this is another example of people's
changing opinion on the issue of marijuana," Cowgill said. But
students like Weinberg sophomore Eitezaz Mahmood are still wary of
relaxing marijuana laws.

"A healthy society should have laws that reflect our moral standards,"
Mahmood said.

Illinois is no stranger to an evolving marijuana policy. In May, a
bill that would create a pilot program for medial marijuana in
Illinois fell just seven votes short of passage in the Illinois
General Assembly.

The Marijuana Policy Project, based in Washington D.C., lobbies for
marijuana decriminalization and the elimination of penalties for
medical and non-medial cannabis use. Morgan Fox, the group's
communications manager, said the Illinois medical marijuana bill will
be reintroduced during the current legislative session.

Advocacy groups such as the Illinois chapter of the National
Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws, or NORML, welcomed Mayor
Tisdahl's announcement. Dan Linn, executive director of Illinois
NORML, said the mayor's new position on marijuana represents positive
movement on the issue but does not go far enough.

"I'm very excited that Evanston is moving in this direction," Linn
said. "But we would like to see all criminal penalties removed for
responsible cannabis use, but this is definitely a step in the right
direction and it is much more in tune to people's feelings towards
cannabis use."

But not all advocacy organizations in Illinois feel the same way. The
Illinois Family Institute is strongly opposed to any attempts to
lessen drug penalties, said David Smith, its executive director.

"Isn't 10 grams a lot? That's enough for 25 joints," Smith said. "The
fines need to have teeth. The minimum should be $500, not $50. If you
could pay a smaller fine for possessing marijuana than a moving
violation, then there is a problem."

Conversely, Fox said it is "entirely reasonable" to have 10 grams of

"You could possibly make 25 small joints out of 10 grams, but most
likely not," Fox said. "For patients using medical marijuana in
Illinois - even though it is illegal - 10 grams might even be less
than their daily dose."

The next step in the process is for a city committee to study the
proposed ordinance once the staff drafts it, Tisdahl said.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.