It is likely that within the next few weeks the City Council will be asked to consider an ordinance reducing the City’s penalties for possession of 10 grams or less of cannabis.
Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl has proposed reducing the penalty for possession of 10 grams or fewer of marijuana to tickets and fines.
While new for Evanston, her proposal is hardly radical or revolutionary. Several municipalities in this country have decided that minimizing penalties for possession of a small amount of pot makes sense on many levels.
Without diving into the debate about, on the one hand, hard-core drugs, addiction and antisocial behavior sometimes associated with their use and, on the other, the general inequity of drug laws and sentencing, we agree with the Mayor’s approach.
Something as comparatively minor as possession of a small amount of marijuana should not become the basis of an arrest. This is particularly true of young people, some of whom, may have small amounts of marijuana in their possession with no intent to sell or otherwise distribute it.
Possession alone should not be what throws them into the maw of the state’s criminal justice system.
“I want young people to have jobs, not records. That’s the reasoning behind the proposal. Possessing 10 grams or less of marijuana merits a ticket and a fine; it should not stop someone from ever getting a job,” Mayor Tisdahl told the RoundTable on Monday. An additional consideration, she said, is that the proposal, if passed, would “free police to spend more time on the street.”
A draft ordinance is scheduled to come before the Human Services Committee at its Nov. 7 meeting. We trust that aldermen at that meeting and subsequent City Council meetings where the draft ordinance is considered will deliberate and give due consideration for the Mayor’s reasoning and the youth of Evanston who might be adversely affected by what are now overly stringent laws addressing minimal possession.
We have not seen the final draft of the ordinance, but we do agree with Mayor Tisdahl’s proposal.
Possession of a small amount of marijuana, absent the intent to sell, should not carry a heavy social price tag.