A new study from researchers at Roosevelt University says pot busts rose in Evanston after aldermen encouraged police to use tickets rather than misdemeanor arrests for people caught with small quantities of the drug.

The study says that “net widening” effect did not occur in three other communities studied — Chicago, Urbana and Yorkville — for which the researchers were able to obtain comparable data.

So, while the number of people arrested on misdemeanor marijuana possession charges fell in Evanston, the total number of people either ticketed or arrested rose from 179 in the year before the ticket ordinance to 311 two years later.

The study was released today, and it’s lead author, Kathleen Kane-Willis of Roosevelt’s Illinois Consortium on Drug Policy, is scheduled to speak in Evanston Tuesday night at a Democratic Party of Evanston sponsored panel on drug sentencing policies.

The report also says that blacks face arrest or ticketing for marijuana possession at rates far higher than their share of the population — a pattern that held true not just in Evanston.

That disparity holds, despite government data indicating that marijuana use is generally consistent across different racial groups.

Aldermen recently agreed to consider drug law reform proposals offered by a Northwestern University student group, but so far no formal discussion of that plan has taken place.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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