Decriminalization Efforts in Chicago Could Pave Way for MMJ Legalization

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Lawmakers in Chicago will consider a plan to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana so that police can focus on more serious crimes. Under the proposal, individuals caught with up to 10 grams of marijuana would face a $200 fine and up to 10 hours of community service compared. Currently, penalties for possession include a $1,500 ticket and up to six months in prison.

An alderman plans to introduce the plan at a City Council meeting this week.

Backers of the proposal say that marijuana cases tie up valuable court and police resources that could be better spent on other types of crimes, as it takes much less time to write a ticket than make an arrest.

If the measure passes, it could eventually pave the way for the legalization of medical marijuana in Illinois. Several other states that initially decriminalized marijuana – such as Colorado – eventually legalized the production and use of medical cannabis. Illinois lawmakers shot down a measure to legalize medical marijuana earlier this year, but backers hope to introduce a revised bill in the future.

To date, 16 states and the District of Columbia allow the production and use of medical marijuana, and voters in several other states will weigh in on similar measures in 2012.