Articles Tagged with marijuana laws in Chicago

esteban-lopez-234052-copy-300x200In June of 2018, Chicago police discovered over 1,500 pounds of marijuana during a traffic stop. The street value of the drugs is just over $10 million. The use of a drug dog from the narcotics unit helped police make this discovery.

The vehicle was stopped for suspicion of trafficking narcotics, which is why the drug dog was on hand. The drugs were en route to Chicago from California. The driver was charged with possession of over 5,000 grams of cannabis. Now, many people are raising issue with the legitimacy of the traffic stop.

The Issue

esteban-lopez-234052-copy-300x200Like every other state, Illinois is debating whether or not to make recreational marijuana legal, even after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions made it a priority for federal prosecutors to enforce drug laws. According to Sessions, marijuana is causing serious health issues to citizens and anyone found in possession of it should be convicted.

However, Illinois leaders do not agree with Sessions. State Representative Kelly M. Cassidy and state Senator Heather Stean have plans to come up with revised statute in the legislature’s new session to permit recreational marijuana. They have been carrying out town halls and meeting with constituents and key stakeholders to come up with a bill.

The first approach of making recreational marijuana legal in Illinois might take place in March 2018 in Cook County. In the same month, an advisory referendum will ask voters whether adult use of cannabis should be lawful. It will be placed in the primary ballot. It is crucial to note that there is still a lengthy process. The vote is part of the strategy by state-wide legalization, hence not binding or affecting the current law.

get-budding-72791-copy-300x200The sale of marijuana for medical purposes is a hot topic in legal circles, following a number of reform efforts. That is no different in Chicago where laws are in place to ensure that people can access much-needed relief whilst at the same time protecting the rest of the public from some of the worst effects of Marijuana. This remains a controlled substance and citizens should not assume that they can trade in it without any legal consequences. When the law was passed allowing medical marijuana, there was an upsurge in purchases. The first week alone saw sales of over $200,000 and covering over 800 patients. Each ounce costs about $450 and during that heady week, over 400 ounces were sold.

The legal issues at stake are always interesting to both prosecutors and defense attorneys. At the heart of it is the difference between freedom of choice and the need to put controls on substances that have proven to be harmful. The law was always playing a delicate game that matched the needs of the wider community to those of the individual. Whereas it seemed heartless to leave someone to suffer in pain, it was equally heart-wrenching to see people’s lives being destroyed by marijuana. So far it seems that the legislative regime has managed to hit the right spots on this delicate balancing line.

A Long Journey Toward Legalization

Marijuana_jointThe possession of marijuana in Chicago straddles the thin and ambiguous line between criminality and socially risky behavior (see The Municipal Code of Chicago (MCC) 7-24-099). Some have reached the conclusion that the continued criminalization of marijuana in Chicago is against the public interest and represents a waste of precious police resources. For example the state attorney’s office in Cook County has already indicated that it will dismiss minor pot cases as part of their overhaul of the criminal justice system.

Others may wonder whether it is appropriate for a DA to have such wide discretion to the extent that they can effectively decriminalize activity that is criminalized under statute. In some ways the debate boils down to practicality and commonsense. If every single low level offense was prosecuted, the DA would never have the time to go after the big drug overloads. Moreover there is general public acceptance that there are people who use marijuana for recreational and medicinal purposes without intending to or actually causing any harm to members of the public.

A Law in Suspense

Macro_cannabis_budEven as some states such as Colorado move to deregulate some previously controlled substances or drugs, Chicago still grapples with the offense of Marijuana possession. At the moment, the state has decriminalized possession but not the actual smoking of pot, which in itself represents a dangerous contradiction. People buy and secure marijuana (often at a great cost) in order to smoke it. Allowing possession whilst banning consumption seems to be one of those incidents in which lawmakers are just too stubborn to admit that they may have made a mistake. Instead they are being dragged screaming and scratching into reality. The consequence for the public is a sequential law that is often riddled with inconsistencies.

The state of the law at the moment must be confusing the potheads and maybe that it is how it was intended. For the defense attorney things are much clearer. Although the client may be arrested for smoking, it is usually the possession that begins the chain of offending that is of interest to the prosecutor. Some localities like Cook County have used prosecutorial policy and discretion to bring more rationality to the law. Hence arrests are made for first and second time offenders but it is rare to make it to the court unless there are other pending matters that the prosecutor wishes to deal with as the defendant is in custody. The Chicago police department also routinely fines those who are caught holding pot. This policy makes sense since everybody knows that you only hold pot when you intend to smoke it or resell it to someone else or hold it for another form of exchange.

The Mechanics and Intentions of the Law