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updated: 5/19/2014 7:57 PM

Report: Enforcement of suburban marijuana laws varies

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  • A new report by Roosevelt University shows that people caught with marijuana face widely different penalties based on geography. Researchers found that someone stopped with up to 10 grams of marijuana would be arrested in some communities in Illinois while in other towns they would receive only a ticket.

      A new report by Roosevelt University shows that people caught with marijuana face widely different penalties based on geography. Researchers found that someone stopped with up to 10 grams of marijuana would be arrested in some communities in Illinois while in other towns they would receive only a ticket.
    Associated Press

 
Associated Press

A new report by Roosevelt University found that people who possess small amounts of marijuana are apt to face widely different treatment and penalties, depending on where in the state they are stopped by police.

In a report released Monday by the university's Illinois Consortium for Drug Policy, researchers found that someone stopped with up to 10 grams of marijuana in suburban Countryside would most likely receive a ticket, while someone possessing a similar amount of pot in Aurora would be arrested. This is despite the fact that Aurora officials enacted a pot-ticket ordinance in 2008 but have not yet issued any tickets, the report said.

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The report, "Patchwork Policy: An Evaluation of Arrests and Tickets for Marijuana Misdemeanors in Illinois," evaluated a handful of cities statewide. One was Countryside, with 88 percent of marijuana possession violations resulting in tickets.

It's a different story in Chicago, where police are still arresting the vast majority of people caught with small amounts of marijuana despite a city ordinance that allows them to write tickets and send offenders on their way.

About 93 percent of misdemeanor marijuana possession violations resulted in arrest in the city in 2013, the first full year the ordinance was in effect, the report said.

Police spokesman Adam Collins suggested to the Chicago Sun-Times that the percentage of people receiving tickets instead of being arrested would climb in the future.

He also noted that there were nearly "5,000 fewer people arrested for low-level cannabis possession in 2013 than in 2011."

When the ordinance was first passed, supporters -- including Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy -- touted it as a key component of a crime-fighting strategy. They said it would enable officers to issue tickets and stay on the street rather than go through the time-consuming process of hauling people to jail.

But researchers found not only that few tickets were being issued, but also that the percentage of arrests did not fall as much as in other cities where similar ordinances have been enacted. For example, in nearby Evanston, the number of arrests for small amounts of marijuana fell by almost 50 percent -- more than twice as much as the 21 percent drop in Chicago.

"Where the rubber hits the road is the practice, and there's a really big disconnect between the policy and the practice," said Kathie Kane-Willis, the director of the consortium.

According to polling data released earlier this year, 63 percent of Illinois voters support a marijuana decriminalization bill.

• Daily Herald staff writer Jamie Sotonoff contributed to this report.

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