In some Illinois cities, including Chicago, marijuana has been decriminalized by local statute. The police can give you a simple citation if you are found in possession of marijuana.
You would think this would result in fewer arrests for the crime of marijuana possession. But a new study from Roosevelt University indicates almost 99% of marijuana arrests in the state of Illinois are for possession only, not distribution, cultivation, or other more serious pot crimes.
According to the research, 98.7% of these arrests are for simple possession, which in many places, need not result in an arrest at all. There, officers have the option of issuing a noncriminal citation. But they still execute arrests.
“We believe that the implementation of the pot-ticket ordinance in Chicago and other municipalities across the state is uneven, incomplete, unjust and expensive,” said Kathleen Kane-Willis, lead author of the study.
The researchers also found that Illinois ranked fifth in the country for the number of marijuana arrests made in 2010. They ranked first in their high proportion of arrests for marijuana possession vs. arrests for marijuana distribution or more serious related charges.
“The state is failing when it comes to marijuana policy, particularly when considering that a majority of Illinois residents support ticketing for people who have small amounts of marijuana,” Kane-Willis said.
Over 100 towns and cities across the state have enacted ordinances that allow possession of small amounts of marijuana to be handled without arrest. The researchers found that marijuana arrests in these towns were lower than in towns without similar laws, but the majority of marijuana cases still resulted in arrests, not tickets.
“We expected cities to issue many more tickets and for arrests to decrease much more significantly. It could be that cities and police departments are not prioritizing ticketing and are instead defaulting to arresting under state law” said Marcia Bazan, a member of the research team.
In Chicago, 93% of marijuana possession violations in 2013 resulted in arrest, while only 7% resulted in a ticket. This rate, which works out to 14 arrests for every ticket, gives the city the highest marijuana possession arrest rate in the state, and no doubt drives the data that shows Cook County leading the entire nation for marijuana possession arrests in 2010.
If that isn’t troubling enough, the researchers found those who are arrested face wildly different treatment depending on where they are stopped. For instance, someone who is found with 10 grams of pot in west suburban Countryside will get a ticket while someone in Aurora will be placed under arrest. (Aurora, incidentally, enacted a ticket-ordinance in 2008 but has yet to issue a single ticket for marijuana possession).
The bottom line: No matter where you live in Illinois and no matter what the options are available to law enforcement, you can and likely will face arrest if you are found with marijuana.