Aldermen on Evanston’s Human Services Committee voted unanimously Monday in favor of a new ordinance that would let persons caught with small amounts of marijuana avoid having a criminal record.

Aldermen on Evanston’s Human Services Committee voted unanimously Monday in favor of a new ordinance that would let persons caught with small amounts of marijuana avoid having a criminal record.

Under the proposal, all persons stopped by police and found to have 10 grams or less of marijuana in their possession would be issued a traffic-ticket-like violation notice ordering them to appear for a hearing in the city’s administrative adjudication system.

Currently some such cases are handled in administrative adjudication while in other instances persons caught with the same quanity of marijuana are prosecuted in district court in Skokie, where a conviction results in a criminal record.

Police Chief Richard Eddington told aldermen Monday that officers issued 98 citations for cannabis possession in fiscal year 2010 while 50 cases involving possession of 10 grams or less were heard in district court.

Top: Kate Mahoney showing aldermen a cigar that could be turned into a marijuana blunt. Above: Police Chief Richard Eddington waiting to speak at the committee meeting.

Eddington said the decision about how to prosecute a case involves “very individualized decision making, involving the suspect’s history, the circumstances involved in the arrest and any other charges pending.”

Fines for possession of marijuana under the ordinance would remain at their current level — a range from $50 to $500.

At the suggestion of Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, the  committee voted to add options for the administrative hearing officer to impose requirements for drug counseling or treatment programs and community service obligations on violators in addition to the fine.

Alderman Jane Grover, whose amendment to the proposed ordinance was approved.

Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl has pushed for the ordinance change, saying that having young people end up with criminal records as a result of being caught with small amounts of marijuana makes it extremely difficult for them to get jobs and become productive members of society.

She also suggested that shifting to issuing tickets would free up police time that then could be devoted to dealing with serious criminals.

Before the vote, Vernon Clark, associate principal of educational services at Evanston Township High School, said school officials were not taking a position on the ordinance.

Vernon Clark of ETHS.

He said students found at school with small amounts of marijuana are subject to schoool discipline, but not reported to police.

“We only involve police when we find large amounts, which seems to be congruent with the mayor’s proposal,” Clark said.

He stressed that marijuana use is against school rules and said it leads students to make risky and dangerous decisions.

He also argued that gangs get a foothold in schools through drug dealing and said school officials don’t want that activity on or near the campus.

Dickelle Fonda

Dickelle Fonda, of 1220 Darrow Ave., said student researchers she supervised at Northeastern Illinois University found that lots of black kids are stopped and frisked by police and found with small amounts of marijuana.

Their lives often go on a downward spiral from there, Fonda said, suggesting that the revised ordinance would at least keep them from ending up enmeshed in the judicial system.

The student research, based on Freedom of Information Act requests, indicated that such arrests in Evanston clustered around the high school and along Howrd Street.

Kate Mahoney, of 2538 Gross Point Road, said the ordinance might not set the right cutoff point for sending cases to district court.

Mahoney said that while white youngsters often smoke marijuana cigarettes that contain less than 10 grams of pot, black youths tend to use blunts, hollowed out cigars filled with marijuana, that could contain more than the limit.

The ordinance now goes to the full City Council for consideration expected at the council’s Nov. 28 meeting.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. thank you Pot Panel

    Such a move to reduce penalties for pot possession is long overdue. The approach to drugs in the United States is hypocritical and counter-productive.  Cigarettes and alcohol ok – pot not ok. The bizarre prohibition on hemp (a very useful fiber) production is also inexplicable.

    Mexico is in chaos with drug gangs, the US is down there helping with the killing. Billions have gone into interdiction in Columbia and what is there to show for it all? US prisons are overloaded with drug offenders. Drugs are available as always, production always keeps up with demand, one place is shut down and another one starts up.

    Education on drugs? YES!   Treatment for drug users? YES!   A war on drugs that will allow pushers to make big bucks so that they will to go to any length to get the stuff, including killing? NO!

    Check out Douglas Husak's book Legalize This!

    It takes each argument for the prohibition of drugs, logically takes it apart and examines the premises to see if there is any evidence to support them. I am not a proponent of drug-taking (though every one of us does take them under cover of prescriptions) but reading this book revealed to me the utter folly of what we are doing. Read it and then decide for yourself.

  2. Traffic on the Hill

    I don't agree with this proposal at all. This is legalizing marijuana use. Ask any addict how they got their start. This is not the way to discourage use.

    Parents and ETHS Administration – if you care to know …… foot traffic on "THE HILL" has already increased. Good luck.

    1. ETHS and Evanston police are OK with marijuana decriminalization

      Vernon Clark, associate principal of educational services at Evanston Township High School, says D202 officials are not taking a position, which really means ETHS supports the marijuana decriminalization. How stupid does ETHS think we are?

      Clark said kids found with a "small amount of marijuana" at school are discplined but not reported to police. I'd like to know his definition of small amount – 10 grams? Anything that fits into kids' pockets? Naturally, no one on the Human Service Committee cared enough to ask.

      Evanston Police Chief Richard Eddington seems to support the marijuana decriminalization because he implied it would reduce the district court load cases. Was ANYONE on the Human Service Committee curious enough to ask Eddington his opinion of what effect writing a traffic ticket for marijuana possession under 10 grams would have in the community? How common is it in Evanston for low level dealers to sell 7 gram bags? The street value of 7 grams of pot ranges from $85-150.

      I am so glad the Human Services Committee are exploring all the angles before passing an ordinance to decriminalize marijuana. 

      The irony is the alleged reason for the marijuana decriminalziation is to unclog the district courty et Alderwoman Jane Grover then throws in the caveat that the administrative hearing officer could " impose requirements for drug counseling or treatment programs" for kids who get a ticket for marijuana. If most of these kids and their families are poor guess who will end up paying for THAT. Who monitors whether these kids follow the hearing officer's rulings and who pays for the monitoring? Then what happens when the kids disobey the Admin hearing officer? Back to district court ya go.

      What we have here is our school, police and city officials have decided to loosen marijuana possession penalties without honestly and openly discussing the pro and cons of this controversial ordinance. They could have at least afforded Evanstonians that much, considering the premeium taxes we pay for our schools and police.

      I guess ticketing people for possession of marijuana puts new meaning into the image of Officer Friendly.

      By decriminalizing marijuana I predict marijuana use will increase in Evanston. On the positive side, local food sales will rise.

    2. Overreaction much?

      This proposal isn't legalizing marijuana. It's changing the punishment for possessing it from a court date- and a lot of paperwork- to a ticket and a hearing.

      Whether this change has an effect on marijuana use in Evanston is debateable. I'm pretty addicted to driving over the speed limit, but the threat of a tickets keeps me in line.

      1. Put yourself in the shoes of

        Put yourself in the shoes of a teenager… then go watch the foot traffic on the Hill…

    3. You need perspective.

      So if your drug of choice is alcohol, it could be said you got your start on milk. Your argument is non-sensical. Would you like to make milk illegal now because it causes alcholism? The stepping stone hypothesis & gateway theory of drug use is a crock, and has been proven as such through numerous studies. It has been proven that there is no inherent psychopharmalogical property of the drug which pushes one toward another drug.

      1. If my drug of choice is alcohol,

        If my drug of choice is alcohol, then it could be said I "got my start on milk"? 

        Geez, how did you pull that logic together? That stupid argument would go more like "if you're now an alcoholic, you likely got your start experimenting with taking sips off your dad's nightly glass of bourbon, or, stealing beers from your parent's fridge, drinking beers under a bridge with your pals, etc."  something like that.

        The milk connection doesn't work dude.

  3. Decriminlize, then legalize

    Pot is as much a gateway drug as candy is to obesity. Certain personalities will always have a predisposition towards addictions, This includes eating, smoking, drugs, drinking, sex, the list continues. Pot has been proven to generally be safer than drinking liquor. Most cities are in a financial crisis. Legalize, control, and tax!!! the vices that are clogging up our criminal system.

    1. I too disagree with this

      I too disagree with this ordinance. I wish the idiots running this City would focus their voluminous amounts of free time to shoring up the budget shortfalls, making our City safer and heading us away from what is clearly going to be bankruptcy.

      So, our brilliant High School administrators don't call the police if "small amounts" are found. Does hold true if they catch some kid with only two cans of Budweiser in his backpack? This whole debate is going the wrong way. Those of you who are pot smoking proponents can't wait until it gets decriminalized, which should vindicate your whole 40 plus years of getting high.

      Our City reported that they issued 98 citations in 2010, which doesn't look to me as is this terribly oppressive law against pot possession is clogging up the courts and keeping our cops busy.

      I'm mostly horrified by our idiot Mayor's reasoning that by not enforcing possession laws, against mostly young African American folks, we'll enable their re-entry into potential employment. You must be joking Mayor. The message this our young citizens is that its ok to possess and to smoke pot, just carry very much on you.

      I've spent 30 years as a professional substance abuse counselor. I would like to think I've helped save lives. Every serious drug addict starting with smoking pot. Don't tell that alcohol use is a slippery slope to alcoholism, it may be for some people, but adding another drug that can be abused, can lead to harder drug use and can help create serious drug addiction is just stupid. Why go there? so we can cut the number of annual arrests from 98 down to some smaller number?

      I call upon our Mayor, and council persons to turn this around right now, become leaders.  Let's send a message to our youth that it's illegal to possess any amount of alcohol or pot. Let's enforce laws and teach our children that laws exist for a reason.

      Unfortunately Mayor, I know you won't lead, your view of this City if a utopian view that we should look just like Berkeley, setting our priorities around green projects, backyard chickens are cool, sitting on our decks smoking pot. And what is sadder is that when you get replaced, you'll get replaced by someone with equally skewed thinking, like Alderperson Grover.

  4. Clark is not a super man

    It is hard to believe Clark saying that ETHS does not involve police when kids get caught bringing in small amounts of marijuana. Where does he get his authority to decide which laws are going to be enforced in the school. It is people like him that has caused ETHS to drop so far in the Illinois high school rankings.

    He should be fired for being an idiot.

  5. I’m sickened by the High

    I'm sickened by the High School administrators and Council persons who are giving up on our youth, giving them a free pass to possess dope. Don't any of you have any guts?

    So kids near the "high school" are frisked, and found with small amounts of pot, so what?  They should be charged, put in jail for a day or two, and given a $1,000 fine thereafter. Poor, middle class or from Kenilworth, the kid would quickly learn that what he/she was carrying around high school was illegal and the costs for getting caught are high.

    The mayor wants to keep these poor, under priveledged youths from not being employable if they have a criminal record? Our mayor also wants to cut down on the numbers of arrests by Evanston police officers, keeping these kids out of the court system.

    Jane Groovey wants these young people who get caught to sign up for counseling, drug education and a social services case worker assigned. You must be kidding, can you imagine the administration work involved with that.

    Please someone in Evanston city government, get some balls, have some guts. Uphold our laws, issue charges when kids (or anyone) is caught with pot, fine them and enforce our laws. Eventually, even the dumbest citizens understand that dope possession and smoking is not tolerated in Evanston, unless you live with the Mayor.

  6. Blunts and Joints

    I don't know who Kate Mahoney is but the fact that she said "that while white youngsters often smoke marijuana cigarettes that contain less than 10 grams of pot, black youths tend to use blunts, hollowed out cigars filled with marijuana, that could contain more than the limit." 

    …Really Kate? Have you ever seen ten grams of marijuana? I don't care if you were a born and raised jamacan who learned to roll blunts in the womb you couldn't fit that amount in a blunt even if you tried. You don't see kids on street corners puffing 9 inch shtogies. The fact that she is is saying that white kids tend to smoke less amounts than black kids is compleatly absurd and borderline racist.

    I'm just sick and tierd of all our Evanston leaders getting together and making a bunch of asumptions on how pot is effecting their kids. I have lived in evanston my whole life and gone through all four years of highschool at ETHS. I have met and interacted with the drug culture face to face for years and can tell you that weed is not something that should not be the main concern of parents today. The fact is that most kids at ETHS DO smoke weed and will continue to smoke weed no matter what penalties you inforce or take away. Weed is the most easily obtainible substance in our community. How about we stop worrying about african americans getting caught with small amounts of herb and worry more about the de-segrigation of our class rooms. As Evanston parents you should feel lucky that all your child is doing to smoking weed and going to drinking parties behind your back, because that is normal. Saying that it is a gateway drug is using weed as a scape goat for deeper underlying issues in a teens life…..

  7. I agree they should just fine

    I agree they should just fine people with 10 grams or less It will save money and bring in money there is so much focus on the kids smoking pot adults do it as well this is one of the smartest thing they have done concidering there are bigger drugs out there that are more harmful. Pot should be the least on peoples minds


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