It’s a tale of two cities. Midwestern common sense puts Chicago in the lead in the de-criminalization of pot. Elitist Washington, D.C. comes in last place. DC’s now one of the worst places in the country to be caught with marijuana.
Let’s start with the basics. In August, Chicago de-criminalized possession of 1/2 ounce or less of pot. Caught with up to 15 grams of weed in Chicago and it’s a $500 ticket.
Yes, a ticket. Like a speeding ticket. The city saves the cost of arresting and prosecuting you, and you contribute $500 bucks to schools, roads and yes, even the police department. Chicago estimates that first year revenue from pot tickets to be $26 million. Chicago now joins Boston and New York as big cities where possession of marijuana is now punishable by a civil fine.
Switch to the District of Columbia. Caught here with so much as a roach in your ashtray and it’s off to jail.You’re arrested, photographed, fingerprinted, and your name is added to the FBI national criminal database.
You’ll have to hire an attorney, appear in court at least 3-times, drug test, and it is likely that the arrest will be on your record permanently. You’ll be ordered into community service, or be put on probation, and if you mess up, you’re facing up to six months in the D.C. Jail. That’s the same D.C. Jail that holds the city’s most violent criminals.
Think that you will take your case a jury? Your peers will understand what a joke this is? Think again. Jury trials have been eliminated for pot charges in D.C. Maryland followed suit just last year. A judge will decide your case, and which one you’ll get will be the luck of the draw.
And guess what? It never ends for kids from D.C. When a D.C. kid applies for college, or a job, that young man or woman will be competing against kids from Chicago, New York and Boston. The difference is that the D.C. kid has a permanent criminal arrest record. Instead of talking about himself, the job interview is spent explaining his drug problem. Which kid do you think is going to get the break? And which kid is likely to be sleeping on his parent’s sofa?
And by the way, those arrested are predominantly black, hispanic and poor. Not because marijuana use is any higher in poor neighborhoods. That’s were the “jump-out” cops tell all the kids to face the wall and “empty their pockets.” Occasionally a rich Mitt or Barack type finds himself caught up, but it’s the poor and minorities who take the most casualties in the marijuana wars.
In Chicago last week, Richard A. Posner, a leading conservative federal judge, called for an end to the war on marijuana, everywhere. Posner, the acknowledged brains and heart of the conservative judiciary, told students at Elmhurst College in Illinois:
“I think it’s really absurd to be criminalizing possession or use or distribution of marijuana.” “I can’t see any difference between that and cigarettes.” You can watch Judge Posner’s lecture on YouTube.
Too bad Posner’s voice don’t carry east. Or maybe it does. Chicago’s decriminalization was engineered by Mayor Rahm Emanuel – Obama’s old White House Chief of Staff. Maybe judges, cops and politicians in D.C. do realize they are on a fool’s errand, ruining young kids lives by saddling them for conduct most teens engage in at one time or another – and maybe go on to become President of the United States.