Some Evanston aldermen indicated some tentative interest this week in considering further steps toward lessening penalties for drug use and scheduled a fuller debate on the issue for later this summer.

At a Human Services Committee meeting Monday the aldermen touched on a series of ideas raised in March by a Northwestern University student group, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, and one of its activists, NU senior Marko Pavisic.

Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, said incarceration for drug offenses “really does destroy lives, in some cases unnecessarily.”

But she said she wanted to get input from the police chief and others involved in the issue at the city and “from family members and everyone else” before taking action.

Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, said arrests for marijuana possession are down 46 percent since the city rewrote a local ordinance in 2011 to encourage police to issue tickets for possession of small amounts of pot, instead of making arrests.

However a recent Roosevelt University study indicated that the total number of people either ticketed or arrested for marijuana possession increased during the first two years the new ordinance was in effect.

It also showed that blacks continue to be disproportionately likely to be arrested for marijuana possession, despite government data showing that pot use is roughly evenly distributed across racial groups.

The police department is scheduled to present updated numbers on the possession tickets and arrests at the July Human Services Committee meeting.

Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, said she would be interested in taking a look at city ordinances that criminalize the possession of drug paraphernalia.

And she said the Evanston Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition and PEER Services were among the groups that should also be invited to comment on any changes.

Alderman Mark Tendam, 6th Ward, said he heard from the coalition after the city passed the possession ticket ordinance that “we could have done a better job of getting out the word that this was not an endorsement of pot use.”

“We need to be very clear that drugs are still quite harmful — especially if you have a predisposition or tendancy for abuse — just like with alcohol,” Tendam said.

But he added that he supports clean needle exchange and overdose prevention programs, noting that Evanston once had a needle exchange program, but the agency operating it has gone out of business.

Alderman Holmes suggested that, given the amount of research aldermen wanted staff to do, it probably would be best to postpone the drug law discussion from July until August.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. More drugs, more crime

    How many homes were not burglarized, lives saved and kids staying clean from the war on drugs? You can't put a number on things that were prevented.

    Now the message from our City Council is possession of up to 10 grams of pot is OK. You'll just get a ticket. Of those ticketed, how many were over age 25?  Because the Council decriminalized pot specifically with teens in mind.  

    People who abuse or sell drugs destroy their OWN lives and others around them. Now our Council wants to decriminalize the hard drugs.

    If you have kids, grandkids, nieces or nephews ask yourself this question – Are you OK with them smoking pot and doing hard drugs? If you're not then you can not support the decriminalization of pot and hard drugs.

    How do these people get elected to the Council?

    1. More legal drugs, less crime
      If you want to end the street gangs, then legalize drugs. Why would anyone purchase an unknown quality or quantity of an illegal drug when they could go to Walgreens, CVS or Osco and purchase the same drugs legally and be guaranteed of quality and quantity. Who buys moonshine liquor when they can just go to a liquor store? Another benefit of legalization is the huge amount of taxes that would be generated (you can bet the farm on that!) And in answer to your question as to how these people get elected to the council, its we the people.

      1. Do you want corporations to be the new drug dealer?

        Legalizing drugs would provide corporations another avenue to earn millions getting people addicted to drugs for recreational use. The result would be an immediate mushroom of drug use in America. Again, there is a direct co-relation with drug use and crime regardless of economic status.

        Would you want your kids exposed to the sophisticated advertising and marketing techniques of large corporations that would replace the street corner drug dealer?

        There are other ways to combat gangs and drug dealers. And do you think if drugs were legalized organized gangs would just simply disband and go back to school and earn college degrees?

        Jack Hauer,

        The Council is considering decriminalizing illegal drugs other than pot. Stop drinking the Kool-Aid, tooting the funny cigarettes and whatever other toxins you dump in your body to escape reality. 

    2. Not hard drugs

      Cannabis is not "hard drugs." Stop drinking the DOJ Kool-Aid and get a clue. The truth will set you – and me – free.


    3. Marijuana

      Those of you commenting in opposition to marijuana use and it's ticketing think you are knowledgeable and righteous in your stand. 

      Guess what?

      You actually don't have a clue. 

      Marijuana is safe.   It's so safe that it's much safer than alcohol.  

      Yes,  I do inform my teenager of this truth!  

      No, it doesn't cause burglaries:)

      You also do not understand ONE THING about race and society if you are against ticketing.   Cook County jail is not a place for convicted criminals.  It's a holding cell of poor people who are still awaiting trial.  They're too poor to post bail.  Most haven't had a trial!

      This is where tax payers money is going!  

      So, 1st Commentor… No – drugs aren't ruining lives.   You're ruining lives with your complete ignorance of today's society.  You're ruining lives shoving people in jail where they are out their family's life, school, and workforce.  You're ruining lives by placing more money into jails and prisons than into school!   

      1. Marijuana is not safe, especially for young adults


        While I agree with you regarding ticketing vs. prison for marijuana possession, as an educator, I have to jump in and state clearly that children and young adults are adversely affected by marijuana use.    I have seen marijuana change high-functioning, motivated, and intelligent teenagers into young adults who drop out of college and/or can't hold down jobs.  I have also witnessed the heartache that their parents suffer as a result. 

        To compare marijuana and alcohol is a common  comparison made by those who choose to advocate for the legalization of marijuana despite the consequences that it might have on others.  It is also a comparison that is not rooted in any bona fide, scientific research.  Alcohol is regulated, marijuana is not.  Unless you are growing it yourself, you don't actually know what is in the marijuana you purchase or where it comes from.  Therefore it isn't possible to make a simple comparison between alcohol and a dime bag purchased on the street. Kids shouldn't be imbibing in either of these substances, but especially not in a completely unregulated  substance such as marijuana. 

        But don't take my word for it–one of the best studies being conducted on the effects of marijuana on brain chemistry in people in their teens and twenties is being conducted right here at Northwestern University.  And guess what?  "Pure" marijuana (the kind that can be sold in Colorado legally) adversely and permanently alters the brain chemistry of young adults who use it regularly. 

  2. Again… with all due respect take 2

    Why? Are there not other things we can address here in the City of Evanston that are more pressing? Pot is illegal. Deal with it. Drugs lead to problems, socially, economically, emotionally and criminally. Deal with it. This again is another pet activist project… dare I say a Liberal dream to loosen, then legalize pot like in Colorado and Washington. Please put your resources City Council into something more productive for our citizens, rather than rewarding drug users with lesser penalties.

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