Vernon Hills, Mundelein police have mixed reaction on marijuana ordinance
Updated: August 13, 2012 6:22AM
Local police have mixed reactions to Chicago’s recent decision to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana.
The Chicago City Council on June 27 passed an ordinance, which allows police officers to write tickets and issue fines for possession of up to 15 grams of marijuana, instead of arresting them.
Vernon Hills Police Chief Mark Fleischhauer said he believes writing tickets versus a state arrest charge makes sense in certain cases where individuals, particularly teens or young adults, are caught in possession of small amounts of marijuana.
“I would say it’s a good idea because it allows us to focus on more serious crimes,” he said.
Fleischhauer said many suburban towns, including Vernon Hills, have had local ordinances on the books for years which allow police to issue tickets to people in possession of small amounts of marijuana rather than charging them with more serious state misdemeanor charges.
Fleischhauer said a state charge of marijuana possession is a Class A misdemeanor which can carry a fine of up to $1,000 and up to a year in jail. A misdemeanor conviction could make it difficult for somebody applying for a job, or to attend college or get in to the military.
But Mundelein Police Chief Ray Rose is concerned the Chicago ordinance may send the wrong message to youth that marijuana possession is acceptable. “I would say I don’t know if it’s a decision right now that would be good for us,” he said.
‘Disagree with that’
“A lot of people will say ‘it’s just marijuana it’s not a big deal,’” Rose said. “I would disagree with that.”
Rose said currently Mundelein officers do have the ability to charge individuals caught in possession of marijuana under a local ordinance or with a state charge, based upon the circumstances.
While a local ordinance violation will not go on the person’s permanent record, Rose said the individual is still arrested and brought into the police station for processing and given a court date. With the Chicago ordinance, he said, possession of a small amount of marijuana would be the equivalent of a traffic or parking ticket.
Rose added that Mundelein recently adopted an ordinance banning certain types of synthetic cannabinoids and he does not believe it would make sense for the community to make a “tolerance adjustment” for cannabis.
Vernon Hills police have the option to charge individuals caught in possession of small amounts of marijuana with a local ordinance violation, which requires them to pay a fine of up to $500 and to appear in court, Fleischhauer said. However, it does not go on the person’s permanent arrest record with the state.
Fleischhauer said often times teens or young adults are picked up with small amounts of marijuana and in many cases a state charge may be too harsh a punishment.
“It’s kind of along the lines of possession of alcohol by minors,” he said. “Do we want every kid that’s picked up with a can of beer to have a criminal arrest record? As kids, they all make mistakes and they shouldn’t have to pay for it for the rest of their lives.”
Police always have the option to charge suspects with state charges if other factors are involved, such as prior marijuana arrests, evidence of drug dealing, or other aggravating factors, Fleischhauer said.