In the Northern Chicago suburb, Evanston County decriminalizes marijuana possession of 10 grams or less, penalizing offenders with a fine rather than the jail time. This passage was included in the 2012 budget. This was originally proposed by Elizabeth Tishdal. Tisdahl has said she supported the measure as a way to keep a young person’s criminal record from hindering future employment.
“If we pass this ordinance, we would have more of our young people who could get jobs,” Tisdahl said at a council subcommittee meeting earlier this month. “Police spend much more time arresting someone than they do ticketing them, so we would have police spending more time on the street dealing with more serious criminals.”
The Evanston City Council voted 6-3 on a $250 million budget Monday night, according to Evanston Patch. Aldermen justified the more lenient marijuana ordinance as a protection against young people’s futures (infractions under the new ordinance will not appear on criminal records), and as part of an effort to free up police they say are overextended in the town, which has about 75,000 residents and contains Northwestern University.
Evanston’s ordinance had provided that anyone found in possession of 10 grams or less of marijuana could be fined between $50 and $500. But state law dictates that possession of between 2.5 and 10 grams is a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and/or up to a $1,500 fine, and Evanston police had discretion on which penalty to pursue. But now, that discretion is removed, and the $50 to $500 fine range is maintained.