Marijuana ‘tickets’ the norm in area towns
Students from area schools who participated in a DARE program lock-in at Hinsdale Central High School learned about effects of using marjuana and other suburbs by playing the Wheel of Misfortune game. | Doings file photo
How do you feel possession of a small amount of marijuana should be handled?
As of June 30, following are reported totals from area departments on the numbers of marijuana cases cited under local ordinance versus the number charged as a misdemeanor under state statute.
Burr Ridge: 15 8
Hinsdale: 6 1
La Grange: 0 13
LaGrange Park: 2 4
Oak Brook: 6 2
Western Springs: 4 2
Updated: August 6, 2012 11:28AM
Suburbanites critical of a new Chicago law allowing police officers the option of writing tickets to anyone caught with small amounts of marijuana might be surprised to learn such a policy is already in place in many area municipalities.
In fact, many towns have marijuana ordinances that are more forgiving than the one Chicago approved.
If the police stop someone with a relatively small amount of marijuana, less than 30 grams in Hinsdale, Burr Ridge, Clarendon Hills and Oak Brook, the offense may be processed as a violation of a local ordinance or as a misdemeanor under state statute.
“It’s an arrest, but it’s a petty offense,” said Hinsdale Police Chief Bradley Bloom. “There’s no fingerprinting, and no criminal record. We are not condoning the use of marijuana. We figured it’s just a better use of resources.”
Some not charged
Clarendon Hills takes it a step further for those with very small amounts. The substance is confiscated and destroyed, and the incident is documented.
“For juveniles with small amounts, we always call their parents,” said Police Sgt. Boyd Farmer. “Usually, the punishment they get there will be more than anything we can do.”
The village uses ordinance violations for up to 30 grams.
“If someone has 29 grams, they’re going to get (a local ticket),” said Police Sgt. Boyd Farmer. “It’s good to have the option for very small amounts, though, and a lot of what happens in those situations depends on the attitude of the person and any previous incidents. You don’t necessarily want to create a record for someone for one incident with a very small amount.”
Western Springs has stricter guidelines than some of its neighbors. The village allows officers to write local ordinance tickets only to people with 10 grams or less, said Deputy Police Chief Brian Budds.
“Anyone issued a local ordinance citation must appear at a local administrative adjudication hearing at the village where they can receive a fine of up to $750 and/or community service,” Budds said.
Burr Ridge Deputy Police Chief Tim Vaclav said he department also routinely charges under village ordinance for small amounts. The process is slightly more complicated than a simple traffic ticket, he said, as it requires bond be posted.
An arrest made on the Cook County side of Burr Ridge is handled in DuPage if under village ordinance and in Cook County if prosecuted as a misdemeanor.
Vaclav said Cook County Forest Preserve police are able to write tickets for small amounts of marijuana. Having worked as a forest preserve officer, Vaclav said the ability to write a ticket for a small amount of marijuana was a convenience.
“I wish we could write a ticket. It would be so much easier,” he said.
La Grange police also deal with Cook County courts. Possession of 30 grams or fewer is a Class A misdemeanor. Possession of more than 30 grams is a felony, but it’s up to the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office, whether to prosecute, Chief Michael Holub said.
“It’s a judgment call, and almost always common sense,” Holub said. “Is this more than for personal use and consumption, or is it packaged for delivery and sale.”
Misdemeanor offenders can post bond at the police station, which is $100, set by state statute; a judge must hold a hearing and set bond for a felony case.
Depends on motive
Police rely on discretion, particularly when evaluating whether the person caught with marijuana intended to repackage and sell it.
“Somebody caught with a Baggie with some residue would probably not get prosecuted,” Holub said. “At some point, it had a lot more stuff in it. We missed our window of opportunity.”
LaGrange Park Police Chief David McCollum, whose department also issues local citations, defends the practice.
“I don’t think that by passing the ordinance any message was sent that marijuana use was OK,” McCollum said.
“In today’s world of shrinking resources and staffing, priorities have to be established. How many dollars are there available to dedicate to such things?” McCollum asked. “What then do you eliminate in order to prosecute minor cases of marijuana possession?”
Staff writers Chuck Fieldman, Sandy Bosch, Kimberly Fornek and Jane Michaels contributed to this article.