Rolling Meadows unhappy about having to prosecute minor marijuana tickets

Those cited for possession of a small amount of marijuana in Rolling Meadows will now have their cases heard through a city adjudication process rather than before a county judge, under a measure approved by the city council Tuesday.

The move comes after Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez announced last week that the county would no longer be prosecuting offenders for possession of less than 30 grams of cannabis.

Rolling Meadows Mayor Tom Rooney was not happy about how the change was made and the lack of prior notice given to municipalities, which now bear responsibility for the cases.

“It was a disgraceful lack of professional courtesy to not give advance warning to any municipality in Cook County of the steps they were going to take,” Rooney said.

Because the change from Alvarez went into effect immediately, municipalities were left scrambling to change their ordinances to keep up, said Rolling Meadows Police Chief Dave Scanlon.

Previously, police would write a ticket for marijuana possession, and if an offender wanted to challenge it, the case would go to the Cook County courthouse in Rolling Meadows. Alvarez's changes mean the county will no longer be prosecuting those cases.

Scanlon said that leaves a gap in due process for offenders, unless Rolling Meadows altered its code, as it voted to do Tuesday night.

“I don't really have an issue with what the state's attorney wants to do,” he said. “But when you have police departments all over the county that have, by this action, been left in a legal limbo, that shows a reckless disregard for all the sub-entities of Cook County.”

Rooney also was upset with how quickly the city council had to move to update its code.

The council typically approves ordinances with two readings at separate meetings to allow residents, aldermen or staff to bring up problems. But because the county's changes went into effect immediately, the council had to take immediate action.

Because of that, Rooney said he will ask for a motion to rescind the ordinance at the council's next meeting. Although he doesn't expect the motion to pass, it will provide a second chance for public discussion.

“That way we can stand on principle, even if the Cook County State's Attorney's office won't,” he said.

Going forward, a first offense for possession of under 30 grams of marijuana will result in a $250 fine. For each subsequent offense, the fine will be $500.

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