Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez at a news conference this morning is scheduled to announce plans to stop prosecuting misdemeanor marijuana possession cases.

The change is part of a broader package of reforms that will also address the handling of prosecutions of small amounts of other drugs. She’s expected to announce creation of a program to divert nonviolent repeat drug offenders out of the criinal justice system.

The changes follow adoption in Evanston in 2011 and in Chicago in 2012 of ordinances that call for police to issue citations instead of filing misdemeanor charges against persons accused of possession of small amounts of pot.

The Evanston ordinance calls for fines of $50 to $500 for possession of not more than 10 grams of pot. The Chicago ordinance provides for penalties of $250 to $500 for someone caught with up to 15 grams of pot.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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