Chicago lightens marijuana punishment

June 27, 2012 at 5:29 PM

CHICAGO, June 27 (UPI) -- Most people caught with a small amount of marijuana in Chicago will only face a ticket and fine under a measure approved by the City Council Wednesday.

The City Council voted 44-3 to add Chicago to the list of states and cities reducing the penalties for those found with small amounts of pot. Beginning Aug. 4, Chicago police will have the discretion of issuing citations with fines of $250 to $500 to anyone caught with 15 grams -- about a half-ounce -- or less of marijuana, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Police can still arrest people caught smoking marijuana or carrying it on park or school grounds, anyone younger than 17 or anyone they believed was trying to sell the drug, the newspaper said.

The initiative was pushed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who amended his original proposal after some aldermen expressed concerns the city would be perceived as soft on pot. Among the changes was language allowing the possibility of having those ticketed go through drug awareness or education programs. Violators also could be required to do community service and their vehicles can still be impounded.

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