A Northwestern student’s proposal for reducing substance abuse penalties is now scheduled to get an airing before Evanston’s Human Services Committee

Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, requested the issue be sent to the committee after NU Senior Marko Pavisic made a series of reform proposals during public comment at Monday’s City Council meeting.

In 2011 the City Council directed police to issue only traffic-ticket style violation notices for possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana. That leads to the cases being heard under the city’s administrative adjudication process rather than in Skokie district court, and violators found guilty are not subject to incarceration and don’t end up with a criminal record that can interfere with their job prospects.

Pavisic, an activist with the group Students for Sensible Drug Policy, suggested that the city raise that limit to 30 grams of pot and also apply the administrative adjudication approach to possession of small quantities of other commonly used illegal drugs.

He suggested that a similar approach of eliminating incarceration for personal-use quantities of drug possession in Portugal over a decade ago reduced problemaic drug use, overdose deaths and HIV infections and led to more drug users seeking voluntary treatment.

The committee is likely to discuss the issue at a meeting in April or May.

After the recent policy change went into effect, tickets issued by Evanston police for marijuana possession increased 64 percent — from 119 in 2011 to 195 in 2012 — while the number of possession arrests declined 27 percent — from 147 to 108.

Related stories

NU campus not pot-bust-free zone (12/8/11)

Aldermen OK tickets for pot (11/29/11)

Panel backs plan to lessen pot penalties (11/8/11)

Mayor wants to reduce pot penalties (10/3/11)

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. 30 Grams

    Anyone holding 30 grams is intent to sell! Get a clue, Evanston elected officials. You don't believe me, ask your kid!

  2. Even considering 30 grams of pot is stone crazy

    Skokie has a similar pot ordinance but those in possession get ticketed with 2.5 grams or less. Anyone caught with more than 2.5 grams are arrested. That I can live with.

    Now Evanston officials are listening to a NU student drug activist who wants to decriminalize marijuana possession up to 30 grams!!! Why not post signs at the Evanston border welcoming drug dealers. Heck, just legalize marijuana in Evanston.

    Here are some facts I mentioned here before that need to be repeated.

    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

    Colorado schools have seen a sharp rise in drug-related disciplinary actions since the legalization of recreational pot. The National Institute of Drug Abuse found that marijuana use has climbed among 10th- and 12th-graders nationally, while the use of other drugs and alcohol has held steady or declined.

    Why not find out the age and race of those arrested and ticketed since the recent policy was enacted because too many minorities and teens were getting arrest records. 

    Of course, there were less arrests and more tickets. Duh

    1. Please learn the truth

      You should seek treatment along with whom ever gave you such bad info. Marijuana as with most drugs were made illegal for nothing more than racist purposes as slavery was ending and more Mexican Nationals began working in this country. Prior to this period Heroin was sold at corner drug stores for .25 a dose as all now illegal drugs were as well. In an effort to protect white women from engaging with other races drugs were outlawed thou the vast majority of heroin users were white middle aged homemakers. (1) Marijuana as can be found in several studies has proven to cure certain types of cancers, not cause them as.(2) Most people entering re-hab for marijuana are court ordered after the introuduction of drug courts which offers an alternative to prison, thus the increase in treatment.(3) addiction rates are less than 10% of all users leaving 90% or the vast majority free from addiction (4) there are too many studies that have de-bunked the gateway theory you suggest.(5) Marijuana does have a negative effect on the developing brain, however no one suggest that children be allowed access to marijuana (6) youre clearly mis-informed or attempting to mis-inform others which is shameful. I would suggest if you want to speak out on marijuana you inform yourself with facts from more than just groups who benefit from drug prohibiton. Be open minded regardless of your position. Start with DR. Carl Hart Neuroscientist and Profesor at Columbia University and author of HIGH PRICE: A NEUROSCIENTISTS JOURNEY OF SELF DISCOVERY THAT CHALLENGES EVERYTHING YOU KNOW ABOUT DRUGS. 

    2. Response

      I'm glad you took the time to present your concerns! First, I'd like to mention that the proposal seeks to decriminalize all amounts of marijuana and replace incarceration with progressively increasing fines (not just for up to 30 grams).

      Second, I'm glad you are aware of the harms marijuana use can bring in the short and long term! Dependence, other health risks, and social issues do arise from regular, heavy marijuana use.

      Finally, my only intent with the substance policy reforms is to ensure that substance users are not being harmed further by incarceration and permanent records. I would rather have marijuana abuse be dealt with in the sphere of public health and not by the police force and prisons, who are underequipped to deal with substance abuse issues, especially like the ones you raised.

      Through administrative adjudication and fines, substance use will continue to be addressed and discouraged without imprisonment and related harms.

      Feel free to contact me at with any further concerns! I can also e-mail you the text of the proposal that goes into more depth than I do here.

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