The Cook County Illinois state’s attorney’s office is making a major change in the way they approach minor marijuana cases. In an announcement Monday, April 20, 2015, office spokeswoman Sally Daly stated “if someone is caught with a misdemeanor amount of marijuana, the state’s attorney’s office will no longer prosecute that case.”
The change is part of an effort to refocus efforts away from criminal prosecutions and more on treatment for nonviolent repeat drug offenders, who may now be referred to social service agencies for treatment rather than being thrown into the criminal justice system.
The Chicago police spokesman Martin Maloney is quoted as saying about the change:
“The state’s attorney’s action is a welcome step . . . to reduce sentences for some offenses while focusing on the most dangerous gun crimes,”
Chicago has seen shootings rise by 40 percent during the first quarter of 2015 with 18 more murders, compared to same period last year.
Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart’s office also liked the state’s attorney’s announcement agreeing that a new way was needed in dealing with nonviolent drug offenses.
In just 2014 Cook County had more than 15,000 misdemeanor cases for small amounts of marijuana. The new approach is expected to greatly reduce criminal prosecutions, and since marijuana prosecutions are disproportionately against minorities, it is expected to bring some racial justice to marijuana.
One thing unusual is the fact that the change will only affect cases going forward. Pending cases would not receive same treatment which seems not only unfair, but defies common sense if the purpose of the change was to truly help such people rather than treating them as criminals. It will be interesting to see the outcome of any pending cases for marijuana possession.
This is a significant step in how states deal with small amounts marijuana possession. Cook County, with Chicago as the county seat, has over 5 million residents. Any moves by the state’s attorney’s office are bound to be notice by other prosecutors around the country. Let’s hope this is the start of a trend for actual prosecutors to start questioning the criminality of marijuana possession.