CN January 5, 2012

Does it make sense to stop making arrests for possession of small quantities of marijuana, possibly replacing arrests with tickets? It’s a hot topic right now, and we spend the entire half hour discussing it.

The Chicago Police made 47,400 arrests in 2009/10 in which marijuana possession was the most serious charge. Of these: 78% of the arrestees were black, 17% Hispanic and 5%were white. (Only 4,000 were eventually found guilty).  So it’s more than just an issue of wasted police resources. It also funnels thousands of minority youths into the juvenile justice system, where they can acquire permanent records that can hamper their employment  chances later in life.

Former Chicago Police chief Jody Weis is on our panel this week. In his new role as president of the Chicago Crime Commission, he thinks the idea of moving to ticketing has some merit, but as he told Rob Wildeboer in a WBEZ interview recently, there are unforeseen consequences. Many minority youths don’t carry identification, he says, and that could get kids into even deeper trouble.

Randell Strickland with the Illinois Commission on Juvenile Justice has spent his career battling disproportionate minority contact in the justice system, and he tells us about the ways in which low-level pot busts happen with greater frequency in minority communities.

Rob Wildeboer’s on the panel too, along with Mick Dumke. Mick co-authored, with Ben Joravsky, a series of articles in the Reader that starkly laid out the case for alternative strategies in pot arrests. It’s great reading, and highly recommended.

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About Ken

Ken's the host of Chicago Newsroom. A former news director, reporter and radio program host, he's also a past Vice President of the Chicago Headline Club.
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