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Rahm Emanuel Marijuana Proposal Advanced By Chicago City Council Committee

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A man smokes marijuana during at a demonstration in favor of legalizing marijuana outside the Senate in Mexico City, Friday April 20, 2012. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)
A man smokes marijuana during at a demonstration in favor of legalizing marijuana outside the Senate in Mexico City, Friday April 20, 2012. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)

Updated story

A City Council committee on Thursday advanced a proposal from Mayor Rahm Emanuel to partially decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana.

The mayor's slightly-tweaked plan was approved by the City Council's Committee on Public Safety 13-1 amid some skepticism, the Chicago Tribune reports. Revisions to the plan included the barring of ticketing for those caught with the drug on either school or park grounds.

The full City Council is slated to vote on the measure next Wednesday, meaning the ticketing provision could go into effect early next month.

Following some criticism from Chicago aldermen, the proposal was already amended since the mayor announced it last week.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports that minors caught with any amount of marijuana, as well as anyone lacking "proper identification" would not be eligible for being ticketed in lieu of an arrest for their infraction.

The minimum fine has also been increased from Emanuel's previous $100 to $250, according to the paper. Under the revised proposal, those caught with 15 grams or less of marijuana could face a fine up to $500, with the amount depending on how many prior offenses are on the individual's record.

Though some aldermen -- including the influential Ald. Ed Burke (14th) and Ald. Patrick O'Connor (40th) have expressed concerns with the proposal, a majority (27) of the 50-member City Council have already signed on to the mayor's original marijuana ticketing proposal, WBEZ reports. That number is likely to increase following the changes already made to the ordinance.

O'Connor commented Wednesday that he was concerned that -- since officers would still have the option to make low-level marijuana possession arrests if they chose to -- the ticketing measure may not be implemented evenly throughout the city.

"And so you'd want to make sure that statistics don't later come out and show that certain communities are getting tickets and other communities are still getting arrested," O'Connor said, according to the Chicago Tribune.

O'Connor's comments are a nod to a Chicago Reader story published last summer which found a high racial disparity when it came to those who faced marijuana arrests, charges and convictions. Though marijuana use is relatively even throughout the city, those arrested for possessing the drug are disproportionately African-American.

Despite the reservations of some, Emanuel remains undeterred in his push for a proposal that could result in the closest vote in his City Council yet.

"We have police officers working arresting people for 10 grams, 11 grams, 12 grams – a huge amount of time dedicated to that – and then they get to the court. That means they’re not on the street fighting gangs, fighting gun violence," the mayor said Wednesday, according to CBS Chicago.

Last fall, Ald. Danny Solis (25th) introduced a similar marijuana ticketing ordinance to the City Council, a proposal he estimated would bring the city $7 million per year and save both police and court workers "money and thousands of hours of time."

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