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Report: County spends $78 million prosecuting pot smokers

The Chicago Reader estimates Cook County taxpayers spend $78 million a year to arrest and prosecute people charged with possession of small amounts of marijuana.

The Chicago Reader estimates Cook County taxpayers spend $78 million a year to arrest and prosecute people charged with possession of small amounts of marijuana.

And the paper quotes County Commissioner Larry Suffredin of Evanston as saying, "Every dollar that's going into making one of these arrests could be spent on more serious crime problems."

The latest installment of the Reader's investigation of pot law enforcement comes ahead of a discussion  Evanston aldermen are expected to have later this month of a proposal from Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl that pot possession should be punished with a citation like a traffic ticket, rather than prosecuted as a misdemeanor under state law.

The County Board in 2009 effectively decriminalized marijuana possession in the unincorporated areas of the county served by the sheriff's department and earlier this month the board expanded that rule to apply to municipalities that are policed by the sheriff's department.

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