Evanston aldermen Monday gave final approval to an ordinance pushed by Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl that reduces penalties for possession of small quantities of marijuana.

The ordinance directs that persons found in possession of 10 grams or less of pot should be issued a ticket to appear before a city administrative hearing officer, rather than having the violation prosecuted as a criminal matter in Skokie district court.

The net result of the change is that persons found guilty would not end up with a criminal record that could interfere with their employment prospects.

The approval came after city staff produced a report showing that black residents are disproportionately arrested for marijuana possession.

Of those arrested for pot possession in Evanston so far this year, 67 percent are black, in a city that U.S. Census figures show is 18 percent black.

A city-produced map showing where marijuana arrests take place showed a heavy concentration of arrests in low-income, largely black areas of the city.

Police Chief Richard Eddington has said that arrests tend to take place where people congregate on the street and where police receive complaints from neighbors about drug dealing, and that both of those things tends to happen most often in low-income neighborhoods.

The city data also indicated that 41 percent of marijuana possession cases are already heard in the city’s administrative adjudication system under an existing ordinance. There was no explanation of how the determination has been made in the past about where to hear the cases.

The data also showed that only about one third of fines issues for marijuana possession are paid.

Aldermen, who had debated the issue at previous meetings, approved the ordinance without comment on the consent agenda Monday.

But differing views about it were offered during citizen comment.

Andrea Lubelfeld

Andrea Lubelfoeld, an attorney with the Moran Center for Youth Advocacy, said the change would save the city money on police time, because issuing tickets would require that persons arrested be processed at the police station.

In addition, she said, the city would get revenue from fines that now goes to Cook County when cases are heard in Skokie district court.

She said the ordinance is not an amnesty for post possession — that violators would still be penalized. They just won’t have criminal records.

And she said that in her experience at the center, most youths charged with simple possession don’t go on to commit other crimes.

Albert Gibbs

But Albert Gibbs, a long time Evanston resident who said he is a recovered drug addict, opposed changing the ordinance. He said the change will just tell kids to get high.

Related document

City staff memo and copy of the ordinance (.pdf)

Related stories

Mayor wants to reduce pot penalties

Panel backs plan to lessen pot penalties

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. New marijuana ordinance is an outrage

    Thanks City Council and Mayor Tisdahl for announcing to the world that Evanston tolerates possessiosn of marijuana.

    This decision was based on race and money. That's it.

    Well, if the Council is going to make legislative decisions based on race then they should NOT raise taxes in the predominantly white areas of Evanston that pay disproportionately more property taxes.

    Skokie has a similar pot ordinance but guess what, those in possession get ticketed with 2.5 grams or less. Anyone caught with more than 2.5 grams are arrested – and that is sensible and something even I could live with. The Evanston City Council passed the ordinance with 10 grams or less and there was little to no debate on the significance of the possession amount.

    There is considerable significance. Low level dealers sell 7 gram baggies on the street. Rather than being arrested they will be ticketed. Wonderful. Send in the clowns.

    This issue was hardly debated. What is the demographic makeup of those arrested for pot possession under 10 grams? The Council makes it sound like only teenagers are arrested for pot possession. How many people over 40 are arrested for pot in Evanston under 10 grams? To the best of my knowledge that data was not made available.

    What do Evanston teens think about this pot possession ordinance? What is Evanston Police Chief' Richard Eddington's view on this, especially the 10 grams and under clause? He never really said, and we pay him six figures, and soon a hefty pension for the rest of his life. He's the top cop in town hired to enforce our laws. Does he not have a detailed specific opinion?

    Most importantly, what do parents think?

    Do you think that drug dealers are now gnashing their teeth and clenching their fist in rage over this new Evanston pot ordinance? Or are they laughing in delight about the naivete of liberal City Council members and the mayor who passed this law because a specific demographic bore the brunt of pot possession violations. In terms of drug use and possession, whose standards are we going to live by – those in areas that violate the city's drug laws or those in the majority of areas in Evanston who abide by the law?

    You had Vernon Clark, associate principal of educational services at Evanston Township High School, publicly testify that kids caught with "a small amount" of pot in school are disciplined but not reported to police. I wonder if that's some kind of city violation – not reporting a crime. Is ETHS a safe zone for smoking pot? 

    What we have here is a city ordinance dealing with criminal activity that was defanged because the majority of people of a particular race and area violate the current ordinance. What kind of precedent does that set?

    Probably the most infuriating aspect of this issue is the City Council, police, school officials and some social service workers saw an opportunity to generate more revenue for the city. This new pot ordinance allows the city to adjudicate more cases and collect fees and fines for the violations rather than the county. Since the City Council decided to mandate that pot violaters get counseling and treatment, it will also be a boon for social service workers. Who pays for that?

    It is a pure FACT that marijuana is a gateway drug. A fact also NOT discussed by city council members or the police chief in this debate.

    If you have children you should be absolutely outraged by this new ordinance. We need a complete overhaul of our City Council and change this new ordinance. We should also demand the resignation of Police Chief Richard Eddington. 

    Our city taxes went up 11 percent in two years and now the City Council rams down a money-generating ordinance that will negatively affect our children by sending them and pot dealers the message that possession of marijuana 10 grams and under will be like getting a parking ticket. 

    Am I alone on this?

    1. With You

      Yes, I would have to agree with you.

      I cannot wait to see the unintented consequences of this action in the months to come.

      Classic example of misled leadership with liberal bliners on. 

    2. You’re not alone, but you are wrong…

      You ask if you are alone?  Probably not, but you are surely in the minority, both in Evanston and throughout the country.

      This issue goes beyond the trivial points you make — the U.S. has been long engaged in a losing war against drugs that is eating up and mis-directing limited resources.

      Moreover, especially when compared to alcohol, marijuana is a relatively benign drug.  It is hard to fathom how one can be for legalization of alcohol but not marijuna — alcohol is far more destructive to individuals and society as a whole than marijuna.

      I for one applaud the Evanston City Council for taking this step in the right direction.  In the future, we will laugh and mock marijuana prohibition just like we do toward alcohol prohibition in the 1920's.

      1. Sounds to me like…

        You like a little hit here and a little hit there.

        It is illegal.  What do you not understand about Marijuana.

        Alcohol is legal. 

        Big difference. 

        Get off the bong.


    3. marijuana, blacks and whites and gateways


      People use drugs – but in facing the penalties, blacks are called to account far more than whites. If you go into black neighborhoods you will generally find many more people out on the street than in white neighborhoods, as mentioned in the article, but who is using more drugs – those black folks socializing on the street where undercover police may mingle, or those white folks, adults or kids, in their houses safely out of reach of the police?

      From my teens on, I've known many whites who have used marijuana, some on a daily basis for many years. If I wanted some, I could have easily have had it at any time. Not one of my friends and acquaintances who are white have ever been arrested and there is slight risk they will be. Return to the map of Evanston provided with the article. Do you see how what it portrays is entirely different from the interpretation you have read into it?

      Regarding the "gateway drug" issue…when I was going to ETHS in 1968 I had friends who could produce plastic bags with drugs to offer. In college, friends were growing grass in the yard of our apartment. Just about every rock music song had drug related lyrics and I loved those songs.

      What has changed in the 44 years since? I have two kids who went through ETHS (graduated in 2001 and 2005) and survived. Do they use marijuana? They might. I would be amazed if they weren't exposed to it during their high school years. I'd be really worried if they smoked cigarettes since that is a drug that is an almost certain gateway to early death. Do they drink? That's perfectly legal and also potentially deadly. Isn't beer a gateway alcoholic drink? Is there any kid of high school age who couldn't have a beer if he or she wanted it?

      People use drugs, some legal, some not. They always will. Almost everyone gets prescription drugs, but many self medicate. Teenagers aren't stupid; they can see the results of drug use in their peers. Of all the disincetives for drug use, illegality is way down the list. Of all the drivers for drug use, social situtation is way up near the top whether it be peer pressure or escape from an awful social/family situation. I saw that proven with my friends. This is why the War on Drugs has been an expensive failure that has never had a chance of success and never will.

      If you have personal experience that backs up what seem to me to be charges without foundation, please relate it.


  2. All for the marijuana ordinance

    Just to some points:

    "Most importantly, what do parents think?"

    I am a parent — I am all for it.  I don't want my kid's life (or any kid's life) to be ruined because he is carrying a small amount of marijuana.

    "What is the demographic makeup of those arrested for pot possession under 10 grams?"

    I don't understand this quesiton — you say this is about race — what about race?  You mean the white liberals are decriminalizng marijuana because African-Americans want them to?  I really don;t understand what you are saying because you don't say HOW this is about race.  African-Americans are disproportionately the targets of all drug policing in Evanston and around the country.  reducing the penalties can only have an equalizing effect on racial disparities in criminal records.  (Oh BTW, I am white and I do not smoke marijuana).

    Finally, if dealers "sell 7 gram bags" they will be arrested for possession with intent to sell.  Plural in that sentence (multiple 7 gram bags) would put them above the 10 gram limit and, if it is in separate baggies, you get intent to sell or distribute which carries big penalties.  

    I am sorry you are outraged but I think in short order you will see that not much will change a a result of this in most people's everyday lives.  But it may have a big positive effect for some people.  And a good way to save/raise money for the city.  

  3. Oh please

    It's like the world is coming to an end for god sakes. Just go outside and open your eyes. There are people out there now selling and using.

    The threat of arresting someone for drug use has got us no where except to put money in the hands of the gang bangers. Here is a reality check; They will sell it, they will kill their competition for it, they will kill you or me for it. It makes no difference if you hand them a ticket or send them to jail. THEY DON"T CARE!!

    Now, here is the difference with this ordiance. 1. A Police Officer is now not required to drag some idiot to jail who was carrying a joint. 2. That Police Officer can now spend more time on the street doing more important things such as dealing with important and dangerous crimes.

    We have for years placed the responsibility of battling drugs into the hands of local law enforcement. It is a total waste of tax dollar money. Now while this has all taken place, we have ignored educating our kids (or just plain ignored them all together) about the dangers of drugs. 

    Instead of insisting that everyones tax dollars are dumped into a useless effort, or demanding the termination of our City Reps how about this; Demand that a strong educational drug awarness program be implemented in our schools. Demand that our children get all the information about the dangers of drugs. And last but not least; if you have a kid then WATCH THEM AND BECOME A RESPONSIBLE ADULT FOR GOD SAKES.


  4. Al, I wish you were alone in this!

    Sadly, based on well financed ad campaigns by strong alcohol lobbies, Al is not alone in his thinking.

    I applaud the Evanston City Council for taking a big step forward in both reducing the waste of police time, the courts, lawyers and judges time with these minor offenses and helping reduce the "criminal" label for a product that absolutely should be totally legal (and taxed) in the first place.  And applause again because instead of costing the citizens of this county, we may actually get revenue.  But, the much preferred way for revenue to increase is to make marijuana legal and tax it, no different than legally selling and taxing alcohol.  There is just no difference between marijuana and liquor except that one is legal and the other is not.  Unfortunately, I know there are plenty of alcoholics too (young and old), because addictive behavior is addictive behavior – not the choice of medium to get them loaded.

    It was curious that Al’s claim of a "pure fact" of pot being a so-called gateway drug was not backed up with any "pure fact" references.  It made me wonder where he is getting his “pure fact”(s) and if that so-called “pure fact” includes that alcohol could be a “gateway drug” because if someone has a dependency problem, it is a problem regardless of the choice of libation or even medicine cabinet selections. 




  5. Embarrassed in Evanston
    AA has it right >> The Mayor and Council have sent a clear message to dealers that drugs can be more easily sold in Evanston … And in the interest of coddling a few offenders … The message to the thousands of Evanston teenagers is that there is little or no risk in trying and carrying weed. What a horrible message to send. The pols can say they aren’t supporting greater use of marijuana, but their actions prove otherwise. Many more lives and families will be ruined over this, and that reality will be owned by these myopic policymakers. I’m glad my kids are off at college and are not impressionable teens trying to make good decisions … Because the Council just made things more dangerous and confusing.

    1. You must be for alcohol prohibition.

      Using your logic, you must be for alcohol probition, right?  That would be the only consistent, logical argument to make.  Because, according to you, isn't the legalization of alcohol sending a clear message to teenager that alcohol is tolerated and approved of?  Doesn't alcohol ruin the lives of individuals and families, and cause many societal harms?  You can't be for legalization of alcohol, which is far more destructive than marijunana, and and be against legalization/de-criminalization of marijuna?  Such logic fails.  You may need the government to tell you how to run your life and what to put in your body, other responsible adults like to make those decisions for themselves.   

    2. The city has taken a wise and

      The city has taken a wise and forward thinking step in recognizing that marijuana is not the threat to society that some people continue to claim and that it can be treated more benignly.   Contrary to Embarrassed's claim, few families are ruined over marijuana use.  Compare its effects to those of alcohol, a substance that is literally a poison, one that generates belligerance and aggressive behavior, and one that is responsible for many social ills.  Think of all the fights and arguments that are fueled by liquor.   Marijuana is implicated in extremely few traffic problems, where alcohol is the bane of every driver's existence.   This country in its anachronistic ferver to eradicate Reefer Madness, has continued to waste hundreds of millions of dollars chasing down users of this substance.   The notion that it is a gateway drug has been disproved in countless studies.  It's no more a gateway to heroin use than milk is.  Virtually everyone who has used heroin first drank milk.   Legalize the stuff, and tax it, and get on with attending to some of the real problems we have to deal with.  

    3. Can somebody clarify some issues???

      So, if I understand this correctly, now possession of less than 10g is now only a ticket … No matter how may times the person has been ticketed or arrested before? So, in theory, a person could get caught multiple times with 9.9g and under this ordinance the police can't send them to criminal court ….

      The ordinance was drafted to keep kids from getting a criminal record that could ruin their life- yet, there are no age limits with this mandatory ticketing. A thirty-something person can have under 10g, multiple drug convictions, etc. and can't get charged for a criminal violation?

      I can have under 10g of pot and pay a $25 fine …. But if I use my leaf blower it's $100 …..

      Way to go Evanston!!!! Another round of Kool-aid for everyone!!!!


  6. See the teens at AA meetings

    CC, you are incredibly misguided. I suggest you go to an Evanston AA or Alanon meeting, and witness how many teens are there (take the Mayor and a few Aldermen with you too). Listen to their stories. You might begin to understand how drugs and alcohol destroy families in our community …. Especially when our leaders make pot easier to sell, carry and abuse.

  7. If you can’t argue the facts why argue?

    The criticisms of my post are silly and amusing, especially the claim that "well financed ad campaigns by strong alcohol lobbies" oppose decriminialization of marijuana.

    Other criticisms include the tired old claim that alcohol is legal and is worse than marijuana – as if two wrongs make a right.

    It is a fact that there is a DIRECT correlation between crime such as theft, burglary, robbery etc. and drug abuse. Ask any good cop. Numerous research has proven that marijuana is a gateway drug. For those who missed my earlier post in October consider this:

    1.       Long-term studies of high school students and their patterns of drug use show that very few young people use other illegal drugs without first trying marijuana.

    2.       Short-term effects of marijuana use include problems with memory and learning, trouble with          thinking and problem solving and distorted perception (sights, sounds, time, touch).

    3.       Long-term effects so far show that regular use of marijuana or THC may play a role in some kinds of cancer and in problems with the respiratory and immune systems.

    4.       Marijuana affects many skills required for safe driving: alertness, concentration, coordination. Data have also shown that while smoking marijuana, people show the same lack of coordination on standard "drunk driver" tests as do people who have had too much to drink.

    5.       Smoking marijuana causes some changes in the brain that are like those caused by cocaine, heroin, and alcohol. Scientists are still learning about the many ways that marijuana can affect people.

    6.       Long-term marijuana use leads to addiction in some people. That is, they cannot control their urges to seek out and use marijuana, even though it negatively affects their family relationships, school performance, and recreational activities . According to one study, marijuana use by teenagers who have prior antisocial problems can quickly lead to addiction. In addition, some frequent, heavy marijuana users develop “tolerance” to its effects. This means they need larger and larger amounts of marijuana to get the same desired effects as they used to get from smaller amounts.

    7.       In 2004, over 298,000 people entering drug treatment programs reported marijuana as their primary drug of abuse. However, up until a few years ago, it was hard to find treatment programs specifically for marijuana users.

    You can find these FACTS at

    I don't believe any of these points were discussed by the City Council, school administrators or the police chief. Why?

    The city is broke and nickel and diming us to death. The City Council raised our taxes 11 percent in the past two budgets. Water and sewer rates keep going up, the cost to use recycling carts increased and so on. Now, the city and police department think they've found a nifty way to generate more revenue – ticket people with 10 grams or less of marijuana. Before this ordinance the county kept the revenue generated from the arrests.

    In essence, the city and police department have sacrificed the strict message that marijuana use and possession is NOT OK in order to generate more revenue.

    I guess if the police are no longer needed to make these marijuana arrests and fill out the paperwork perhaps some layoffs are in order? Let's start at the top.

    1. sigh

      OK, one by one.

      1.       Long-term studies of high school students and their patterns of drug use show that very few young people use other illegal drugs without first trying marijuana.

      Correlation is not causation (remember statistics or logic?).  Everyone who ate a tomato in 1745 is now dead.  Tomatoes were not the cause.  Death is CORRELATED with tomatoes not CAUSED by tomatoes.  

      Similarly, people who smoke meth (or heroin or whatever the evil gateway leads to) probably have tried marijuana but it does NOT mean everyone who smokes marijuana will take the other drugs.

      This could lead to another rant about DARE — one reason people try other drugs after they try pot is that the lies told to them in DARE and similar drug prevention programs are so ludicrious they figure that the horror stories abotu heroin or meth must be similarly overblown – which is one of the reasons the data show that DARE makes absolutely NO DIFFERENCE in future drug use.  But I digress. . . the point is, that the "gateway" argument is a very basic form of a logical fallacy.

      1. I think you are wrong.

        I think you are wrong when you say "the data show that DARE makes absolutely NO DIFFERENCE in future drug use" — I believe the data shows drug use is HIGHER (no pun intended) in DARE graduates.

  8. Pot is still illegal in Illinois

    I really like the idea of decrimalizing pot, regulating it, and taxing it.  Prohibition simply doesn't work. There are no reported cases anywhere of people dying from a pot overdose, and there is no hard proof evidence that smoking pot will turn people onto hard drugs.  It's been legally regulated and sold in AMsterdam for years, and I think the Dutch are doing just fine.   People are going to use marijuana whether it's legal or not, and by keeping it illegal, we put the power into the hands of the gangs, we waste police resources, and we miss out on a potentially huge source of taxable revenue.

    However, in the state of ILlinois, pot is still illegal.  I think Evanston should abide by the state law, and if we all don't like it, we should be petitioning to change the state law first.

    Until pot is regulated and sold in stores, as they do in Colorado or California,  we should try to keep it off our streets, and prosecute those who are  smoke or deal out in public view. 

    Meanwhile, instead of wasting time debating this at the city level, Tisdahl should be using her weight to petition changes at the state level.

    God knows the state of Illinois could use that revenue too.

    and if my own child gets caught smoking or drinking anything while at  ETHS,  I damn better  get a phone call and a meeting- this school official makes it seem like its no big deal to be caught with any sort of drug on campus.

  9. click it and ticket

    Why not have the Police Officer take a picture of the offender (regardless of age) holding the confiscated weed and the ticket? Then add to the weekly Police Report –  Pot Heads of the Week which would be quite entertaining. Public humiliation goes a long way………..

  10. Revenue raising with which I can agree

    One of the few things on which I'm in agreement with the city council.  Get over it people, it's not like the city council is saying you can go around carrying pounds of weed.  I also like the picture in the previous article on this issue where a woman was holding a legal cigar in a plastic baggie.  I for one don't know anyone who puts 10 grams of weed into a cigar.

  11. A reason for the inequity in arrests

    There may be just as many if not more white people smoking pot in Evanston as blacks, but in general, the more affluent folks are doing it inside and are simply not getting caught because they are not bothering anyone or engaged in crimes for the police to witness when driving by. In the lower-income and mixed-income neighborhoods, such as my own, people are standing on street corners, walking around, or sitting in cars smoking pot — they are the ones who are getting caught. Additionally, many of the people who are arrested for possession when they are not smoking were stopped for other crimes or suspicious behavior, fighting in the streets, loitering, etc., and happened to have the drugs in their pockets when they got caught. In general, affluent folks are not getting into brawls on street corners.

    So there's the difference.

    1. … engaged in crimes

      engaged in crimes … 

      There you go, you said it yourself. The leniency that this new ordinance extends will only exasperate the growing problem of crime and violence we are seeing in Evanston lately. Obviously, it is an issue that concerns all communities everywhere, and obviously the offenders are not just residents of Evanston. This will have an impact on crime. I am not talking about the "persons found in possession of 10 grams or less of pot" or the 'users' whatever age or race they may be. Rather, the people selling to the community, the 'dealers' whether from Evanston or not. They have just been granted a new market here.

      So go smoke your joint, let your kids smoke if that's what you're ok with, there will be plenty to be found. 

      The expert here is Albert Gibbs, not the attorneys who ultimately see this as a financial benefit to the city. 

  12. Advocates are the Users?

    I wonder if each of the advocates for this new policy (ticketing) are current users?

    Or perhaps they were heavy users at one time and prefer laxed policies and a hit here and there?

    Maybe you used in college, or used when you protested or marched for your past liberal causes? 

    Or maybe you roll one up in your basement or bedroom at home everyday, or once a week or on the weekends…?

    I can see no other reason for why the advocacy?  Are you a user?  Are you that left? 

    Please due tell!

    And god help you if you are a parent and a user! 


    1. Advocate but not a user

      Pretty brazen comment to assume that anyone who supports the Policy must be is a user. Using that logic I guess you think the City Counsel, Mayor and Chief of Police are hanging out back of City Hall taking hits off a bong? After all they're the ones who either supported and or voted to pass it right? Oh and I also assume from your statement that only leftest liberals smoke pot? We all know how straight edge conservatives are right? Or was pot your only concern? If it was, I guess all those hard core conservatives from the midwest need not worry about they're meth labs.

      Try this out. How about read the artical first and find out why the ordance was passed before going off and making such ridiculous comments.

      BTW. I haven't touch the stuff since my college days 20 years ago. I used to hit it pretty hard in high school and college too. These days, got a great job and I don't even drink. I guess I missed out on the whole gateway drug theory.


  13. The Squeeze

    Anyone watch the EPD on MSNBC (The Squeeze) a week ago? Oh, wait, Evanston doesnt have a drug problem. This vote is wrong,  wrong because it clearly shows that this city council is not about supporting the police in upholding the State of Illinois law, instead the city is more concerned in gaining revenue. Shame shame council.

    The City of Evanston DOES have a drug problem, and this has just enabled it.

    When there is an action, there is a reaction…this is going to be GREAT for street level dealers.  

  14. Adding to the debate.

    Interestingly, a new study found that legalization of medical marijuna reduced traffic fatalities by nine percent in states where adopted — while traffic fatalities rose in surrounding states without legalization.  Moreover, it found no increase in teens smoking pot.


    1. A real fine.

      Putting offenders in jail for a long time is not the solution, but something to 'scare them straight' is still needed.

      Maybe a one week 'boot camp' like the armed forces have  but time not on drills, etc. would be in solitary confinement.  Run by ex-Marines and in an enviornment as much like a prison but where no danger [from other 'prisioners'] would occur.

      A real fine is needed not spare change.  Maybe $1000 per offense would get the point across.

  15. After a vote like this …

    The Mayor and the alderfolk ought to at least be intellectually honest with their contituents and share whether they are current/active smokers of pot.  Did it cloud or bias their thinking?  I'm surprised reporters haven't held them accountable and asked them the question.  It should certainly come up in the next election cycle … so Tisdahl, Grover and Wilson better be ready to provide real answers.  It's no joke.  When you pass something of this magnitude — with minimal discussion by the Council … you have some explaining to do.  I'll look forward to hearing those answers.

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