#294 Time To Decriminalize Marijuana In Chicago?

Date: Fri, 08 Oct 2004
Subject: #294 Time To Decriminalize Marijuana In Chicago?


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DrugSense FOCUS Alert #294 Friday, 08 Oct 2004

LATE LAST MONTH, the residents of Chicago were likely surprised to
read the thoughts of Sergeant Tom Donegan, a veteran of the streets
and someone who has intimate knowledge of how marijuana laws impact
the community in the Windy City, America’s 3rd largest metropolitan

In an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, Donegan announced his
interest in a plan for eliminating criminal court cases against adults
found in possession of small amounts of marijuana. Startling
statistics about how such cases are routinely handled in Cook County
Criminal Court are now public knowledge.

Over 7000 people are arrested each year by authorities and charged
with possession of marijuana, yet only one percent ever see an actual
criminal proceeding. This means that the thousands of man hours used
by various police agencies in the Chicagoland area are in fact wasted
since not only are the cases not prosecuted, but the enormous cost to
taxpayers is likewise cast away with no return benefit to the community.

Donegan suggests changing the law so that adults with small amounts of
marijuana are issued a municipal citation and have a stiff fine levied
against them. The result would be an unclogging of the criminal court
docket which must process the voluminous paperwork related to a
marijuana criminal arrest regardless of whether a case is actually

But the best outcome of such a plan would be the literal millions of
dollars in fines generated. When this fresh revenue is combined with
the massive savings that will come from no longer having police having
to appear in thousands of court hearings on overtime pay rates, the
city stands to benefit in a tremendous way financially with no
associated increase in risk to overall public safety.

The most astonishing aspect of the story was still to come. Unlike
the common response given by political leaders to such suggestions
from police – which by the way have been increasing steadily over the
past decade as cops recognize the failed policies of a criminal
Prohibition against casual adult marijuana use – Chicago Mayor Richard
Daley has embraced the idea and is encouraging city legislators to
consider making such a change as quickly as possible.

THIS GROUND BREAKING STORY was picked up on the AP wire and has been
printed in newspapers across the United States and Canada in the past
two weeks. Please consider writing a letter to as many of these
newspapers as possible with your comments of support for the proposed
change in Chicago. When such a major city moves away from criminal
prohibition and more towards a system of decriminalization, more
cities and states are likely to soon follow.

To find more recent news items about this story, please click this


Finally, this story is significant enough so that a short letter to
the editor of your local newspapers telling what Chicago is doing and
recommending the same for your city or state, if appropriate, could
possibly be published – without any tie to a specific news item in a
targeted newspaper.

By using the Area dropdown at this link you may find the contact
information for many of your state newspapers:


Thanks for your effort and support.

It’s not what others do it’s what YOU do


email messages, etc.)

Please post a copy of your letter or report your action to the sent
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can learn from your efforts and be motivated to follow suit.

This is _Very_ Important as it is one very effective way of gauging
our impact and effectiveness.

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Here is the version of the story which ran in the Chicago Sun-Times:

Newshawk: http://www.illinoisnorml.org
Pubdate: Sat, 25 Sep 2004
Source: Chicago Sun-Times (IL)
Copyright: 2004 The Sun-Times Co.
Contact: letters@suntimes.com
Website: http://www.suntimes.com/
Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/81
Author: Frank Main, Crime Reporter
Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/topics/Chicago
Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/pot.htm (Cannabis)
Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/decrim.htm (Decrim/Legalization)


On the heels of Mayor Daley’s endorsement of a plan to fine people
caught with small amounts of marijuana, representatives of the Cook
County state’s attorney’s office and the Chicago Police Department
will meet next week about it.

Police Sgt. Tom Donegan came up with the proposal out of frustration
at seeing his misdemeanor marijuana cases get dismissed over and over.
He gave the seven-page proposal to his bosses about two weeks ago.

Mayor Daley embraced the idea Tuesday, saying “it’s decriminalized
now” because most misdemeanor pot cases get tossed out. Donegan
estimated fines could raise millions of dollars for city coffers.

Of the 7,430 cases prosecuted in city branch courts in 2003 involving
less than 2.5 grams of pot, 94 percent were dismissed, Donegan wrote,
citing court records. He estimated the department spends $400 on
officers’ salaries to process one pot arrest.

And that does not take into account the costs of the clerk’s office to
process the paperwork, the sheriff’s office to provide security in
court, the state’s attorney’s costs for the prosecutor and the salary
of the judge, Donegan said.

“We plan to meet with the Chicago Police next week to discuss the pot
issue. We are looking into the legality and constitutionality of
this,” said John Gorman, spokesman for the state’s attorney’s office.

Police spokesman Robert Cargie said “something is wrong” if officers
spend two to four hours to process such pot cases and they are
regularly tossed out.

“Certainly the issue of successful prosecutions will be examined,”
Cargie said. “There are some obvious problems that need some sort of



PLEASE NOTE: This is a sample letter only. Your own letter should be
substantially different so that it will be considered adding to the
discussion and not viewed as a SPAM letter writing campaign. Please
limit your Word Count to 200 or less for best chance of being published.

TO the editors of the (Newspaper Name):

The news that Chicago Mayor Richard Daley is endorsing a proposal to
end criminal charges against adults found in possession of small
amounts of marijuana is ground breaking. Nationwide, police arrest
more Americans for simple pot possession than for all violent crimes
combined. The resulting pressure on criminal court dockets is enormous.

Decriminalizing pot possession would save hundreds of thousands of
otherwise law-abiding Americans from being given a lifetime criminal
record. It would also save hundreds of thousands of police man-hours
which could be more productively used investigating drunk driving,
domestic violence, sexual crimes and corporate fraud to name a few
other crimes which cause far more damage to our society than does the
responsible use of marijuana by American adults.

It would behoove the city of (community where this paper is printed)
to give similar consideration to what is a more common sense and
practical approach to dealing with the tens of millions of Americans
who enjoy using marijuana responsibly and do not wish to be labeled as
criminal threats to the community.


Your name and contact info

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