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Chicago Mayor: Lower Penalties For Drugs

Rahm Emanuel

  Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Tuesday called on state lawmakers to reduce penalties for drug possession.

  Two years ago, Chicago began allowing its police to issue tickets for possessing small amounts of pot, rather than immediately making an arrest.

Emanuel says the change is working: "We have seen about 4,100 fewer arrests in that area."

An independent analysis, however, found Chicago police have been slow to embrace the ticket option. The Illinois Consortium on Drug Policy says last year, marijuana violations resulted in arrests — not tickets — nine times out of ten.

Testifying before a special legislative committee that's re-examining crime and punishment in Illinois, Emanuel nevertheless suggested that marijuana tickets ought to be an option for police statewide.

"The state of Illinois is one of the few places in America where our incarceration rates are rising even as crime rates are falling," Emanual said.

Emanuel also suggested that possessing one gram or less of any drug be made a misdemeanor rather than a felony.

Brian Mackey formerly reported on state government and politics for NPR Illinois and a dozen other public radio stations across the state. Before that, he was A&E editor at The State Journal-Register and Statehouse bureau chief for the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin.
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