Last night, the Evanston City Council unanimously passed an ordinance which lessens the penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana. Evanston always had a Village Ordinance in plays which provides that if someone was caught with 10 grams or less of marijuana, they could be issued a ticket for a fine between $50 to $500. State law provides that possession of 10 grams or less of marijuana is a Class B Misdemeanor, punishable by up to 6 months in county jail and a fine up to $1,500. Under the old law, Evanston police had the discretion to charge someone with the Village Ordinance or the state law. Yesterday's measure removes the discretion from the police and mandates that only tickets be issued but that the fines remain between $50 to $500. This measure had originally been proposed by the Mayor of Evanston who was concerned that arrests of young people caught with small amounts of marijuana made them unable to find jobs in the future. Evanston joins a slowly growing national movement towards lessening the punishment for being caught with small amounts of marijuana. Locally, Cook County passed a measure in 2009 which lessens the penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana and in October, Skokie, also passed a measure which allows for the issuance of tickets for the possession of 2.5 grams or less of marijuana. Nationally, 14 states have taken steps to lessen the penalties for the possession of small amounts of drugs.
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