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Preckwinkle: Police Should Stop Making Minor Marijuana Arrests

UPDATED 07/28/11 5:50 a.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle has spoken directly with police Supt. Garry McCarthy ending low-level marijuana arrests in the city.

As WBBM Newsradio 780's John Cody reports, Preckwinkle last month declared last month that the war on drugs has failed.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780's John Cody reports


"It's pretty well-known within the criminal justice system that the judges will dismiss those charges for very modest amounts of illicit drugs," she said, "and so I suggested to him that the police might stop arresting people for this, since it clogs up our jail, and their cases will be dismissed out anyway," Preckwinkle told reporters after Wednesday's Cook County Board meeting.

Preckwinkle didn't provide specifics, but her staff later said she was referring to marijuana possession cases.

Preckwinkle said she did talk with McCarthy after he was hired earlier this year. She is trying to reduce the jail population. It costs $142 a day per prisoner. She proposed directing money toward education and drug treatment.

"The city of Chicago is the principal driver of our jail population, so I'm trying to talk to him about the concerns that I have about the ways our drug laws are enforced,' she said.

Asked about McCarthy's response to her suggestion, Preckwinkle said: "I think that remains to be seen."

Back in 2009, the Cook County Board approved an ordinance that decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana.

The measure allows Cook County Sheriff's Police to issue a $200 ticket for possessing 10 grams or less of marijuana in unincorporated parts of the county. Information about the number of tickets issued wasn't immediately available.

Last month, Preckwinkle said 70 percent of County Jail inmates were there for nonviolent offenses, and drugs have to start being treated as a public health problem, rather than a criminal justice issue.
Marijuana possession enforcement has been a hot topic in the headlines in Chicago this month.

Three weeks ago, an analysis by the Chicago Reader found that despite widespread use of marijuana across racial groups, a disproportionate number of those arrested, charged and convicted are African-American. The analysis by Reader reporter-columnists Ben Joravsky and Mick Dumke found that of those arrested for marijuana possession last year and the year before, 78 percent were black, 17 percent were Hispanic, and only 5 percent were white.

The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.

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