A Victory Over Some Illegal “Drug Courier Profile” Traffic Stops in Illinois

The test should be, “Is it better than Prohibition.” Does the proposal stop the arrest of smokers and establish a legal market where consumers can obtain their marijuana?

The Supreme Court of Illinois recently handed down a decision which found that some of the drug courier profile traffic stops in their state were illegal, and agreed with the lower courts that the drugs confiscated in five cases that had been combined for the court’s consideration, should be suppressed. The case was People v. Ringland, et al.

The criminal defense attorney bringing this legal challenge was NORML Legal Committee (NLC) Life Member Stephen M. Komie from Chicago.

The somewhat unique fact in all five of these cases, which arose in 2012 and 2013, was that the drivers were all stopped and searched by a “special investigator” of the La Salle County prosecutor’s office; not by state or local police. After carefully considering the statute that establishes and defines the powers of state prosecutors, the high court found that the prosecutor did not have the legal authority to hire their own people to drive up and down the highways, making traffic stops and searching vehicles for drugs.

Congratulations to attorney Stephen Komie for ending these illegal traffic stops in Illinois with a creative legal challenge.


Study: Racial Disparity In Marijuana Arrest Rates Increasing

Cannabis PenaltiesAfrican Americans in Virginia are arrested for violating marijuana possession laws at more than three times the rates of whites and this disparity is rising, according to an analysis of statewide arrest data by Virginia Commonwealth University’s Capital News Service.

Researchers reviewed 160,000 state and local arrest records from the years 2010 through 2016. They found that blacks were 2.9 times as likely as whites to be arrested for possessing marijuana in 2010, but 3.2 times as likely to be arrested by 2016.

In some counties and towns, such as in Hanover County and in Arlington, Virginia, the black arrest rate was six to eight times that of whites.

The findings are similar to those of a 2015 report, which determined that the number of African Americans arrested in Virginia for marijuana possession offenses increased 106 percent between the years 2003 and 2014. That study concluded that blacks account for nearly half of all marijuana possession arrests, but comprise only 20 percent of the state population.

A separate analysis of Maryland arrest data determined that African Americans accounted for 58 percent of all marijuana possession arrested despite comprising only 30 percent of the state’s population.

A 016 analysis of California arrest figures concluded that police arrested blacks for marijuana offenses at three and half times the rate of whites. A prior statewide assessment reported that police in 25 of California’s major cities arrested blacks for marijuana possession violations at rates four to twelve times that of caucasians. Similar disparities have been repeatedly reported in other major cities, including New York and Chicago.

A 2013 American Civil Liberties Union study found that nationwide blacks are approximately four times as likely as whites to be arrested for marijuana possession, even though both ethnicities consume the substance at approximately similar rates.

Federal Judge: Criminalization of Marijuana is “Absurd”

Judge Richard Posner serves on the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago, he also wants marijuana to be legalized.

During a September 6th speech at Elmhurst College, the federal judge lambasted the war on cannabis. “I don’t think we should have a fraction of the drug laws that we have,” proclaimed Posner to loud applause, “I think it’s really absurd to be criminalizing possession or use or distribution of marijuana.”

Posner went on to state that our drug laws are “a waste of a lot of high quality legal minds, and it’s also a waste of people’s lives who could be as least moderately productive with having to spend year after year in prison. That is a serious problem.”

We here at NORML couldn’t agree more and applaud Judge Posner for having the courage to speak the truth from his high ranking position and for setting a bold example for his colleagues. You can view the entirety of his speech below:

Click here to view the embedded video.

(Comments pick up around the 53 minute mark)

Chicago: City Council Votes To Remove Criminal Misdemeanor Penalties For Pot Possession

The American public is fed up with the criminalization of cannabis. And now, more and more politicians are finally starting to get the message.

This afternoon, members of the Chicago City Council voted overwhelmingly to halt the practice of arresting minor marijuana offenders. By a vote of 43 to 3, members of the Council approved a new municipal ordinance that reduces most marijuana possession offenses to a ticket-like offense — no arrest, no jail, and no criminal record.

Under present law, the possession of any amount of marijuana is defined as a criminal misdemeanor offense, punishable by 30 days to one year imprisonment. Under the new municipal law, which takes effect August 4, police will in most cases now have the option of issuing civil citations, punishable by a fine, in those instances involving the possession of up to 15 grams (about one-half ounce) of marijuana.

The reduced penalties will not apply to cases involving the possession of marijuana in public parks or on school grounds, nor would they apply to incidences involving public cannabis smoking.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel — a former opponent of reducing marijuana penalties — advocated in favor of the new measure, which mimics police policy in many surrounding suburbs. In 2010, the city of Philadelphia enacted a similar policy.

Advocates for the new law had argued that the present criminal enforcement of marijuana possession laws disproportionately targeted African American and Hispanic youth. According to data compiled and posted by the website marijuana-arrests.com, 95 percent of all defendants arrested on marijuana charges in Chicago are either Black or Hispanic. Of those individuals criminally convicted of low-level marijuana possession offenses, 98 percent are either Black or Hispanic.

Chicago’s Mayor Favors Marijuana Decriminalization

I’ve followed with more than a passing interest the entire arch of Rahm Emanuel’s substantive and influential career in American politics.

In fact, found in NORML’s extensive forty-two year archives are the hand-typed notes of an author who was working on a major profile of the history of America’s ‘drug war’ and what the then Clinton Administration was implementing as their drug ‘control’ policies.

The author was former Wall Street Journal reporter Dan Baum and the book he produced is called ‘Smoke and Mirrors’. Any serious student or activist of drug and cannabis policy must include this book on their short ‘must read’ bibliographic list.ReThink the Leaf

Baum interviewed Emanuel in 1994 in his White House office and, according to Baum’s notes, Emanuel was a tidal wave of expletives against cannabis, and most notably cannabis consumers, calling them ‘leftover hippies’ and medical patients as ‘stoners just looking for an excuse to get high’.

How far has Mayor Emanual come on the issue of cannabis law reform?

The significance of Rahm Emanuel’s progression on cannabis law reform can’t be understated as 1) he was the chief domestic policy advisor during the Clinton era that very actively opposed any medical cannabis reforms or decriminalization efforts at the state/federal level, 2) when he was first elected to Congress he voted against Hinchey Rohrabacher spending amendment bills which sought to limit medical cannabis law enforcement by the feds at the state level, 3) in his last years in Congress he changed positions and voted for the HR amendment, 4) during the last two years in Cook County and in other cities in IL, ‘decriminalization’ measures have either gone into effect or have been proposed without Mr. Emanuel saying “boo” and 5) now the political acknowledgement from Prague no less (talk about a city that can inspire decriminalization and personal freedom!) that he is keen on decriminalization.

Many political pontificators believe Emanual, one of the country’s most aspiring and capable political figures, has his eyes affixed on the presidency in 2016 or 2020, and like his potential rival New York Governor and fellow democrat Andrew Cuomo who recently moved to decriminalize cannabis in NY, might rightly see that being in favor of cannabis law reform is now a political asset, not a liability.

Update: Another clear demonstration that American society is moving towards embracing cannabis law reforms can be found in one of the least likely places on earth: The editorial board of the traditionally (almost reflexively) anti-cannabis Washington Post, who, finally, also now embraces decriminalization.

Hmmm….the pot prohibition plot thickens!

Emanuel backs decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana
Chicago Sun-Times

Staff Reporters
Last Modified: Jun 15, 2012 05:59AM

Mayor Rahm Emanuel is throwing his formidable support behind a plan to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana.

If the City Council goes along, Chicago cops will be free to issue a ticket with a fine ranging from $100 to $500. The tickets would apply to people caught with 15 grams of pot or less.

Last fall, Ald. Danny Solis (25th) proposed a ticket carrying a $200 fine and a 10-gram trigger.

Currently, those caught with small amounts of pot face a misdemeanor charge punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,500 fine.

In a press release, the mayor said writing pot tickets “allows us to observe the law while reducing the processing time for minor possession of marijuana — ultimately freeing up police officers for the street.”

Emanuel chose to wade in on the hot-button issue while in Prague for his daughter’s Bat Mitzvah. That allows him to avoid questions about whether marijuana tickets would send the wrong message to kids about a drug that some consider a “gateway” to more dangerous substances.

In 2011, Chicago Police officers made 18,298 arrests for possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana. Read the rest of this Chicago Sun Times article here.



NORML SHOW LIVE #857 – From 21 Jump Street to Logan’s Run

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  2. Paul McCartney says he’s giving up weed for his daughter
  3. Delaware’s governor puts brakes on medical marijuana program following threatening US Attorney letter
  4. Chicago not moving forward with ticket-only decrim of 10g of pot

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Chicago going nowhere on pot ticket reform while spending millions

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. When he was the drug policy advisor in the Clinton Administration, he planned to stop medical marijuana by arresting doctors who mentioned it to patients. (WikiMedia Commons)

(Chicago Reader) On November 2, 25th Ward alderman Danny Solis responded by proposing a city ordinance that would let police issue tickets for the possession of ten grams of pot or less. Officers would still have the option of making full arrests, but Solis said the law could help narrow the grass gap—the fact is that while marijuana is widely used in neighborhoods across the city, African-Americans account for 78 percent of those arrested, 89 percent of those convicted, and 92 percent of those jailed for low-level possession in Chicago.

Twenty-six other aldermen signed on as cosponsors. Solis said that he hoped the council would hold hearings on the proposal as soon as November or December.

From November 2 to January 29, Chicago police made at least 4,480 arrests for misdemeanor marijuana possession. It was by far the largest category of arrest during that time. Each arrest took two officers off the street for at least an hour and a half and led to $2,500 or more in court costs. This leads to an annual tab of at least $78 million for low-level pot busts, though nine of every ten cases are thrown out of court.

Apparently no price is too high to keep roughing up and arresting young black males in Chicago over pot.  That’s 13,440 police man-hours in addition to that $78 million tab to take one out of ten arrests to court.  Another way to look at it: each marijuana arrest cost $17,410.  It is probably cheaper for the city to just buy all the marijuana in Chicago.

Chicago Moves to Ban Synthetic Marijuana After Mother’s Plea

Margaret Rios holds a photo of her grandson, Max Dobner,Margaret Rios holds a photo of her grandson, Max Dobner,An emotional plea from the mother of a 19-year-old who died in a high-speed crash after using synthetic marijuana on Monday convinced a City Council committee to ban the legal product in Chicago.

On June 14, Max Jacob Dobner went to the Fox Valley Mall and purchased a synthetic marijuana product known as Potpourri specifically marketed to get around a state law that was supposed to ban synthetic marijuana.

read more

Chicago Alderman Says Cash-Strapped City Could Make $7m By Changing Marijuana Possession Law

Some officials in cash-strapped Chicago believe they’ve found a way to bring in millions of desperately needed dollars while freeing up police: marijuana.

read more

Chicago could reap $7 million annually with marijuana decriminalization

Click here for more coverage of Illinois

Chicago Alderman are lining up to support a plan to decriminalize personal possession of marijuana, defined as ten grams (~1/3rd oz).  The proposed ordinance would be replacing arrests and jail with a $200 fine that could raise $7 million a year for the cash-strapped Windy City.

As reported by Associated Press, the proponent of the measure, Chicago Alderman Danny Solis will introduce the ordinance tomorrow.  The idea already has the backing of Alderman Willie Cochran, a former Chicago police officer.

“In these trying times of the economy, we could really use the revenue generated by fines versus Arrests,” Solis said. “And each (arrest) means police officers are spending an inordinate amount of time outside the neighborhoods, inside the district offices doing paperwork.”

“I support it because people are getting arrested, going into court and judges are … dismissing (the cases) and releasing them all anyway,” Cochran said.

According to the Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court, 87% of misdemeanor possession cases are dismissed at trial.  Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle noted that the city spent $78 million on marijuana arrests.

Hey, Chicago, if you’re looking to make a buck off pot smokers and direct scarce police resources away from marijuana arrests, how about convincing lawmakers in Springfield to legalize marijuana?  Then you can collect a tax on us without having to catch us with pot!

Chicago Official’s Plan Would Ticket Offenders With Small Amounts of Marijuana

Chicago aldermen are wading into the controversy over drug enforcement with a proposal to decriminalize possessing small amounts of marijuana in the city.

Supporters say the ordinance — which Alderman Daniel Solis plans to introduce at next week’s City Council meeting — will raise revenue for the city and free up police to chase more serious criminals.

read more


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Chicago looks at marijuana decriminalization to save costs

(Chicago Tribune) CHICAGO — Chicago aldermen are wading into the controversy over drug enforcement with a proposal to decriminalize possessing small amounts of marijuana in the city.

Supporters say the ordinance — which Alderman Daniel Solis plans to introduce at next week’s City Council meeting — will raise revenue for the city and free up police to chase more serious criminals.

If the plan passes, people caught in Chicago with 10 grams or less of marijuana would get a $200 ticket and up to 10 hours of community service, instead of facing a misdemeanor charge punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a $1,500 fine.

Chicago police get tied up making about 23,000 arrests each year for marijuana possession, said Cook County Commissioner John Fritchey, a Democrat, who appeared Thursday at a news conference with Solis and other aldermen.

“It is not time to act tough on crime, it is (time) to be smart on crime. We need our resources spent somewhere else,” Fritchey said.

Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy has mentioned the possibility of issuing tickets for marijuana possession as a way to keep his officers on the streets.

My favorite part of this story is one of the alderman explaining how he went to Lollapalooza, Pitchfork, and other music festivals where marijuana is openly smoked and he saw no arrests or problems, noting “If that was an African-American event, the jails would probably be filled up. I think it’s almost a discrimination issue.”

Ya think?

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