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With television cameras whirring, Chicago media interviewing the mayor and others, and citizens lined up to address the matter during citizen comment, the revised marijuana ordinance that decriminalizes the possession of small amounts of pot ending up passing without any debate on the consent agenda during the Nov. 28 City Council meeting.
The consent agenda includes all items that will be passed unanimously and without further discussion.
Those expecting fanfare or disagreement left disappointed. The cameras had little to record and citizens adding their two cents discovered that Council had already made its decision.
The prior ordinance allowed the police discretion when finding small amounts of marijuana. Officers could either issue state charges, requiring adjudication at the Skokie court house through the Cook County court system or issue a City ordinance violation, requiring adjudication at the Civic Center through the City’s administrative adjudication system. Cook County convictions result in a criminal record; City violations do not.
Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl proposed the change in an effort to prevent residents, particularly Evanston’s youth, from acquiring criminal records that make future employment all the more difficult. Hecky Powell, the owner of Hecky’s Barbeque on Green Bay at Emerson, echoed her reasoning. He said that while he was willing to hire young people who “got caught with a little pot,” many other employers were not. A criminal record makes youth all but unemployable.
While not everyone agreed, notably Albert “Peter” Gibbs who said the ordinance was in effect “telling [kids] to get high,” the Mayor’s reasoning carried the day. Apparently having gotten word ahead of time that there would be no fireworks, the cameras were long gone by the time the consent agenda was read and approved.