During debate over the recently adopted Evanston ordinance reducing penalties for marijuana possession, it appeared from maps provided by city police that hardly any drug arrests take place on the Northwestern University campus.

Evanston Police Chief Richard Eddington told the city’s Human Services Committee this week that’s because the maps only showed arrests made by city police.

He presented a letter from Northwestern University Police Chief Bruce Lewis saying that the university’s police department has written 23 city ordinance violation tickets related to marijuana use this year.

That compares to 96 tickets and 138 misdemeanor charges adjudicated in Skokie district court issued by city police.

The new ordinance directs police to handle all arrests for possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana by issuing a ticket leading to an appearance in the city’s administrative adjudication process, rather than sending them to Skokie district court.

Backers of the new ordinance argue that the criminal record resulting from a conviction in district court becomes a permanent barrier to people trying to find jobs and is too harsh a penalty for possession of small quantities of marijuana.

Eddington also suggested that an on-campus arrest can have a greater impact on students because, in addition to going to court and having to pay a fine, the students also face campus disciplinary procedures.

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Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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