Several Chicago councilmen said on Thursday that they plan to introduce a local law that would decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana in order to cut costs and free up police to handle more serious crimes.
Chicago police make about 23,000 arrests each year for possession of marijuana; a misdemeanor that includes up to six months in jail, a $1,500 fine and a criminal record.
Under the new law, to be introduced next week, people caught with less than 10 grams of marijuana would, instead, face a $200 fine and up to 10 hours of community service.
Marijuana has already been downgraded to a lesser offense in several Chicago suburbs by the sheriff's department.
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According to the pro-marijuana group NORML, 11 states have decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana and 18 states allow pot's use for medical purposes, Enforcing marijuana prohibition costs US taxpayers $10 billion and results in the arrests of 853,000 people a year.
Cook County Commissioner John Fritchey told reporters that the proposed law makes sense: "It is not time to act tough on crime; it is (time) to be smart on crime. We need our resources spent somewhere else."
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