Evanston police are issuing fewer citations and making fewer arrests for possession of small amounts of marijuana.
Figures to be presented at Monday’s City Council Human Services Committee meeting show 50 citations and 5 arrests for possession of under 10 grams of cannabis in the second quarter of this year. That compares to 61 citations and 16 arrests during the same period last year.
The decline comes amid ongoing efforts to legalize recreational use of marijuana in Illinois. State Sen. Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) is a co-sponsor of a bill introduced by State Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago) to accomplish that. State Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago) has introduced a companion measure in the House. Both their districts include a small slice of south Evanston.
Steans and Cassidy say they plan to reintroduce modified versions of their bills when the legislature reconvenes in January.
Some advocacy groups argue that legal weed could generate $350 million to $700 million in annual tax revenue for the state.
But substantial disparities remain in the frequency with which members of different racial and ethnic groups are cited for possession of small amounts of cannabis.
Over the past five quarters, while there have been some variations, the rate of citations for blacks and Hispanics has been higher than would be predicted by their shares of Evanston’s population while the rate of citations for whites and other racial groups has been lower.
For example, in the 2nd quarter of this year, blacks, who are 17.6 percent of Evanston residents, received 54 percent of the pot citations, whle whites, who are 61.2 percent of the city’s residents, received 22 percent of the pot citations.
Similar disparities appeared in a Chicago Reader study of possession arrests in that city in 2016 — although there were some differences.
Blacks were 252 percent more likely to be arrested for pot in 2016 in Chicago, while blacks in Evanston were 326 percent more likely to be cited over the past five quarters. The rate for whites was 12 percent in Chicago and 37 percent in Evanston. The rate for Hispanics was 58 percent in Chicago and 169 percent in Evanston.
A 2013 report by the American Civil Liberties Union cited research indicating that blacks and whites use marijuana at similar rates, but disparity in arrests rates are common across the country.
Evanston Police Chief Richard Eddington has said that cannabis arrests tend to take place where people congregate on the street and where police receive complaints from neighbors about drug dealing, and that both of those things tend to happen most often in low-income neighborhoods.
The number of cannabis citations issued also varies dramatically across Evanston’s wards, with the 2nd, 5th and 8th wards having the highest numer of citations and the 6th and 7th wards having the lowest number.