Many people think that the city's new ordinance regarding the decriminalization of 15 grams of pot or less means the flood gates are open and everyone will now smoke pot freely. Yet, it was our culture that made smoking pot okay to the point that arresting people for possessing small amounts of it seems archaic. Therefore, decriminalization happened.
Let's go back to this article's title question. No, people cannot light up 15 grams or less of pot in the middle of the street. That will lead to arrest. So, will getting caught possessing any amount of pot in a school zone or public park. The ordinance also does not cover those 16 years of age or younger who possess pot. They will automatically be arrested. Cars where the legal limit of pot is found will be impounded in addition to the ticket the driver will receive.
The city pushed the ordinance as a time saving effort. Ticketing takes less time than arrests. Yet, one of the main aspects the ticketing is the price. Tickets for possessing 15 grams or less of pot will run the detained $250-$500. According to the Chicago Tribune, there are over 18,000 pot arrests in Chicago every year. That means had the city had the ordinance last year it could have anywhere from $4.5 million to $9 million in revenue. That's a huge chunk of extra change for a city that is constantly cash-strapped.
Yet, that change is one of the smallest that will happen. The biggest change will occur in the demographics of those being ticketed versus being arrested. "The New Jim Crow" by Michelle Alexander explains that a disproportionate number of minorities (specifically African-Americans) are arrested and sent to jail for minor drug charges. Looking at the above map from ChicagoMag.com, it is easy to see that what Alderman Howard Brooking said about marijuana already being decriminalized if one is "white and privileged" is true. Let's hope this ordinance can straighten out the playing field.
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