* You just knew this would happen…
Chicagoans caught smoking weed on front porches and in backyards — even high-rise balconies — that are visible to the public could still face fines after the drug is legalized next year, Chicago police say.
But Chicago cops are being encouraged to explain the new law to residents caught violating it rather than take punitive measures right away, particularly in the initial months. […]
Ed Yohnka, spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, nevertheless raised concerns about the CPD policy. He noted that the law shouldn’t be enforced against those using cannabis in places that are “clearly out of the view of the street,” like backyards and enclosed porches.
“The spirit of the law and the letter of the law in terms of the state law is the notion that as long as whatever behavior is happening is out of public view, it wouldn’t be subject to any kind of punishment,” Yohnka said. “Because they’re expanding what is sort of the spirit of the law, it just provides for more opportunities for enforcement.”
Yohnka also worries that ticketing and enforcement related to cannabis will continue to disproportionately affect people of color. Though the number of pot arrests has plummeted since the city decriminalized weed, a Sun-Times analysis last year found that African-Americans continued to bear the brunt of that enforcement.
From that above-referenced Sun-Times analysis…
In 2017 and the first four months of 2018, 94 people were busted in Chicago for petty marijuana possession. Seventy-six of them were black. Sixteen were Hispanic. Two were white.
*** UPDATE *** Statement from Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Interim CPD Superintendent Charlie Beck…
Righting this City’s generation-old wrongs and overturning the unjust, cannabis enforcement laws of our past has been at the heart of our efforts since day one, which is why we’ve taken the important step forward in reducing overly punitive fines and fees for minor cannabis violations by passing a smart, sensible and safe cannabis enforcement ordinance that truly prioritizes public safety of all residents in this City.
While the state law prohibits cannabis consumption in a “public place,” which is defined as anywhere you can be observed by others in the public, the Chicago Police Department recognizes that an individual using cannabis in their own backyard or balcony poses no direct threat to public safety, and no resident should be arrested or ticketed solely for such a scenario. Any characterization to the contrary is simply wrong. Over the past several months and throughout December, all 13,000 of Chicago’s police officers are being trained on the reformed cannabis enforcement laws, including how they should use discretion of their enforcement powers to educate residents on the new legalization laws, rather than issuing tickets as a default response.
As we prepare for legalization next year, the Mayor’s Office and CPD are wholeheartedly committed to working in partnership with Chicago’s community advocates and leaders to ensure that the days of unfair and unequal targeted enforcement for low-level cannabis violations have come to an end.
Good for them.