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Mayor Lightfoot Seeks To Reduce Fines For Using Pot In Public, And Stop Impounding Cars With Marijuana Inside

by Todd Feurer, CBS Chicago web producer

CHICAGO (CBS) -- With recreational marijuana becoming legal in Illinois next year, Mayor Lori Lightfoot is moving to end the city's practice of impounding cars found with pot inside, and to reduce the fines for using marijuana in public.

"For far too long, unjust and outdated cannabis enforcement laws have adversely and disproportionately affected Chicago's black and brown neighborhoods," Lightfoot said in a statement. "The legalization of cannabis in Illinois presents a powerful opportunity to reform our policies and right these generation-old wrongs of the past as we work to ensure a safe, fair and responsible implementation in Chicago."

While adult recreational use of marijuana will be legal statewide starting Jan. 1, state law will still prohibit people from using pot in public, or in any location where smoking tobacco products already is banned. The law also allows marijuana to be transported in a vehicle only if it is in a sealed container and not readily accessible while the vehicle is moving.

Under new rules the mayor is introducing at Wednesday's City Council meeting, the city would reduce fines for unlawful possession and consumption of marijuana, and police officers would be trained by the end of the year on the new protocols for investigating and enforcing violations of the state's new marijuana law.

"By overturning outdated cannabis laws, Chicago's police officers will finally have a smart, sensible and safe framework that truly prioritizes public safety of all residents in this City," Police Supt. Eddie Johnson said in a statement. "Over the coming months, the Department will be working to ensure every officer has the necessary training and tools needed to enforce these reformed laws and keep Chicago's communities safe."

Now, first-time offenders face fines of $250 to $500 for violations involving less than 30 grams of pot, and additional fines of $500 for any subsequent violations within 30 days. The mayor's proposal would reduce the fine for a first offense to $50, and the fine for subsequent offenses within 30 days to $100.

The city also would eliminate a rule requiring police to impound any vehicle containing any amount of weed.

The mayor's proposal comes one month after the City Council approved zoning rules dictating where recreational cannabis operations can set up shop in Chicago. The new rules regarding fines and impounding vehicles must be approved by aldermen.

Lightfoot's office said city departments and agencies will soon launch public information campaigns regarding the new state marijuana law, including tips on safe and responsible use of pot.

The mayor's office is still working on a separate ordinance to set up guidelines for allowing for legal pot consumption at licensed marijuana businesses.

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