Dime-bag dealers and pot smokers don't have much to fear from the criminal justice system here. For them, weed has been essentially decriminalized, the Chicago Sun-Times says. Last year, Chicago police arrested more than 23,000 people on misdemeanor marijuana charges, and most of those cases were dropped. From 2006 through 2010, cases for possession of less than 2.5 grams of marijuana were dismissed 97 percent of the time. Eighty-four percent of pot possession cases involving 2.5 grams to 10 grams were tossed out of court; and 57 percent involving 10 to 30 grams met the same end.
No politicians are proposing weaker penalties for the top marijuana dealers. Local leaders and law-enforcement authorities are looking for a more practical punishment for the 100 to 150 people facing petty pot cases every day in Cook County. Last week, several Chicago aldermen proposed an ordinance that would allow cops to write tickets to people caught with small amounts of pot. Behind the scenes, police and prosecutors have been quietly considering a similar solution. Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the U.S. — with more than 17 million regular users in 2010, a 20 percent jump over just three years, says the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.