In 2011 there were over 21,000 cannabis-related arrests in the city of Chicago alone.
In 2012 the Chicago City Council passed an ordinance allowing police officers the option of writing a ticket instead of making an arrest for cannabis possession under 15 grams -- their version of decriminalization.
In 2016 a statewide law was passed that stripped that decision making power from all Illinois cops so that any possession of cannabis under 10 grams became a civil offense punishable only by fine.
As a result, Chicago police officers made just 129 cannabis-related arrests last year, and wrote fewer than 300 tickets for possession according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
As warm and fuzzy as those stats may make you feel, there is still a massive gap in racial disparity when you take a harder look at the numbers.
Combining all of 2017 with the first 4 months of 2018, there were 94 arrests in Chicago for petty marijuana possession. Of those arrests, 2 of them were white people, 16 were Hispanic or Latino, and 76 of them were black.
From NYC to LA and all stops in between we see imbalance like this in cannabis-related arrests even though all studies show that all races use cannabis in relatively equal amounts… but damn, Chicago, that does not look good.
But the Chicago Police Department made an announcement this week that they hope might balance the triple-beam scales of justice a bit.
The 2nd largest police department in the U.S. will no longer consider past cannabis use as an automatic disqualifier for potential new recruits to the force.
Oh man, how good could the Police Academy movies be now?
Somebody get us Bobcat Goldthwait on the line!
So, yeah, traditionally to be a cop meant you had to despise weed enough to kick down doors about it, ignore more serious crimes because of it, and definitely, certainly, absolutely have those strong opinions about it without ever having tried it.
These days, facing freefalling recruitment numbers, the CPD is mellowing the harsh, instead of the other way around although we probably won’t see Pelinail-equipped Patrol cars anytime soon.
In fact, CPD spokesman Anthony Guglielmi says that you can’t currently be a dirty pothead, and you really shouldn’t have been one in the three years leading up to your enlistment with the force – how they would hope to determine that is anyone’s guess but it probably involves the “additional background investigation” that gets automatically triggered by a recruit’s admission of past pot use.
With the new semi-relaxed rules the department hopes to attract more minorities into their ranks which they believe will lead to a more balanced breakdown of cannabis-related arrests by race.
The reality is that Mayor Rahm Emanuel has tasked the department with a 2-year mission to add 970 new officers and they are struggling to keep otherwise good applicants from being jettisoned due to minor dings on their record.
Whether a cop has used cannabis in the past three days or the past three years, that cop will be far more sympathetic to another cannabis user than the cop who has never even tried it. So we applaud the move by the CPD and hopefully the Windy City will continue to normalize cannabis use to the point where their arrest numbers completely grind to a halt for all races.