Editor’s note: This article has been revised for clarity. The proposal to amend the alcohol and cannabis possession ordinance will be reviewed a third time on Feb. 13.
The proposal to loosen the city’s alcohol and cannabis possession ordinance was amended due to an objection by the Evanston Police Department. The City Council will review the proposal again at its Feb. 13 meeting.
Eighth Ward Council Member Devon Reid’s proposal amends City Code 9-5-10. If passed, the ordinance would allow drivers to possess previously opened alcohol and cannabis in a motor vehicle, as long as the substances are secured in a sealed or resealable container that’s inaccessible.
EPD agrees that this change would make the city’s ordinance mirror state law.
Currently, the city’s ordinance is stricter than state law. The ordinance prohibits the possession of previously opened cannabis and alcohol anywhere in a vehicle.
The point of disagreement between EPD and the council members was where the proposal reduces the number of public places individuals can’t possess alcohol. The proposal suggests amending section C of the ordinance to prohibit the possession of open containers of alcohol only in public buildings, parks and beaches.
Currently, section C prohibits the possession of alcohol at “public buildings, parks, beaches, highways, streets, alleys, sidewalks, parkways and public parking lots,” according to the ordinance.
This change diverges from state law, Reid said, adding he is concerned some people will be legally able to carry previously opened alcohol on the streets while others, such as homeless people, won’t.
“If we’re going to turn a blind eye to all the folks walking out of The Wine Goddess and all of the folks walking out of other places with their open containers of alcohol, but we’re only going to enforce it against certain people, then we are inherently creating a law that just creates a class or caste system and discriminates against people,” Reid said.
Ticketing people for alcohol possession on the streets is one way officers use to control disorderly conduct in the city, said Evanston Police Sergeant Scott Sophier.
“The issue is folks walking down the street that are drinking,” Sophier said. “I don’t want to take away tools from the police department that will allow them to make our business districts and make our neighborhoods safe and warm and welcoming for Evanston residents.”
After much debate, Fourth Ward City Council Member Jonathan Nieuwsma motioned to amend the proposal by adding the current ordinance’s complete list of prohibited locations for alcohol possession.
The proposal with Nieuwsma’s amendment will be back in front of the council on Feb. 13, said Mayor Daniel Biss.