Chicago Mayor Pushing For Relaxed Drug Laws Statewide

By McCarton Ackerman 09/25/14

Not just content with marijuana, Rahm Emanuel wants to reduce penalties for possession of small amounts of all controlled substances.

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Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is pushing for more relaxed drug laws throughout the state, including decriminalizing marijuana and reducing minor drug possession to a misdemeanor.

Under his proposed plan, anyone caught with a gram or less of a controlled substance would not receive a felony charge. Emanuel is also seeking to expand Chicago’s marijuana ticketing law throughout the state, which would allow police to issue tickets of $250 to $500 for someone caught with up to 15 grams of pot — the equivalent of about 25 cigarette-sized joints.

“It's not just about saving taxpayer dollars. It's also about saving nonviolent offenders from a lifetime spent in and out of the criminal justice system," said Emanuel. "A felony conviction can slam the door on someone's future and make it harder to go to school, apply for financial aid and find housing. There are times when a felony conviction is no doubt warranted, but we have to ask ourselves whether it's too high a price for using drugs."

However, not all Chicago politicians are on board with this proposal. Many believe that Emanuel is only offering to relax drug sentences in exchanges for mandatory minimum sentences for gun possession. State Rep. Ken Dunkin, chairman of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus, said that Emanuel’s plan amounted to “political grandstanding.”

Last June, Chicago filed a lawsuit against five major drug companies, including Johnson & Johnson, accusing them of creating addicts by pushing for excessive use of opioid painkillers. Lawyers for the city have accused these drug companies of hiding the risks associated with painkiller use while overstating the benefits. The city is seeking unspecified monetary damages, but reported spending $9,500,000 on paying for nearly 400,000 claims for opioid prescription fills.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.

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