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Rahm Emanuel Marijuana Plan: Chicago Aldermen Not Yet Sold On Mayor's Pot Proposal

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In this May, 4, 2011, file photo, Chicago Alderman Ed Burke speaks at a City Council meeting in Chicago. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green, File)
In this May, 4, 2011, file photo, Chicago Alderman Ed Burke speaks at a City Council meeting in Chicago. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green, File)

After Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel threw his support behind a plan to partially decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana last week, several aldermen -- including the City Council's most influential member -- have expressed concerns with the proposal.

On Monday, Ald. Ed Burke (14th), who briefly had President Obama's ear on a Beverly golf course over the weekend, said he was concerned with what message the mayor's proposal -- to ticket marijuana offenders possessing less than 15 grams of the drug and fine them up to $500 -- would send to youth.

"Is this a slippery slope that we begin sliding down? As a parent, I’m very concerned about anything that gives kids the idea that this is not a bad thing to do. [These are] things people have to consider before they sign on to support a further decriminalization," Burke said, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Burke is not alone with his concerns with the plan. Ald. Ariel Reboyras (30th), one of the eight aldermen who joined Ald. Danny Solis (25th) last fall to introduce a similar marijuana ticketing ordinance, told the Sun-Times that the mayor's increased ticketing threshold -- from the group's previous 10 grams to 15 grams -- was somewhat alarming.

Ald. Joe "Proco" Moreno (1st), another of the group of City Council members who supported the previous ordinance, told WBEZ that he remains onboard with the mayor's tweaked plan.

"I think the one thing we can agree on is that it is absolutely ridiculous to have this amount of police hours spent on minor arrests," Moreno told the station. "Let's start with this [ordinance] and see where it goes."

The mayor said in a statement Friday that the ticketing proposal "allows us to observe the law, while reducing the processing time for minor possession of marijuana – ultimately freeing up police officers for the street."

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle has also been an ardent critic of low-level marijuana possession arrests. On Friday, she urged the City Council to support the plan, which she said will "help reduce the jail population, save money for taxpayers and eliminate criminal justice disparities."

While Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy commented earlier this month that he is "not a fan" of decriminalizing marijuana, he is in favor of keeping officers on the streets to tackle more serious crimes, particularly as the city is in the midst of a surging homicide rate compared to the previous year.

The marijuana proposal is expected to come up for consideration before the City Council's Committee on Public Safety on Thursday.

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