The Cook County, IL jail is widely overpopulated. In 2014, nearly a quarter of the counties felony cases were for Class 4 drug possession charges, marijuana being one of the drugs included in this percentage. However, an announcement to be made on Monday, 4/20, the date they say is a coincidence, will have the state’s attorney’s office ending the prosecution of cases where the defendant held a misdemeanor amount of marijuana. Those having less than three arrests or citations will be eligible for the new program says spokeswoman Sally Daly. Small amounts of other Schedule I drugs such as cocaine, ecstasy and heroin will also be handled differently under the new plan.
Currently, a Class 4 felony possession would land you a fine of up to $25,000 and or one to three years of prison time, further clogging the system with non-violent drug offenders. Instead, the proposal would have these possession offenses treated as a public health issue, and violators who repeatedly are found to carry smaller amounts of pot will be referred to treatment as opposed to dealing with felony charges.
Chicago began implementing a new rule in 2012, where those found with 15 grams of pot or less could be ticketed as opposed to arrested and given fines of $250 up to $500. Since applying the ordinance, Chicago saw 3,000 fewer arrests made between 2013 and 2014. The Cook County Sheriff’s office representative Ricardo Tosto (twitter profile) states that the Sheriff’s office is all for the new proposal saying they agree with the attempt “to find a more productive approach to low level, non-violent drug offenses.” Pending cases however, will not be shaped by the new proposed changes.