Morton Grove votes to decriminalize marijuana

By Igor Studenkov | For The Bugle

The Morton Grove Board of Trustees unanimously approved a resolution that would allow police officers to fine rather than arrest residents caught will small amounts of marijuana.

The resolution was originally introduced during the board’s June 8 meeting. It applies to cases where residents are caught growing, selling, giving away or otherwise possessing less than 30 grams of non-medical marijuana. Instead of being arrested, violators will now be fined between $100 and $750.

Board documents showed that the resolution was recommended by village staff. That recommendation stated that residents who are arrested for possession of small amounts of marijuana should have the charges dismissed. The village added that fines would free up police resources and may act as a better deterrent.

“A significant number of court prosecutions for the offense of possessing a small amount of illegal cannabis are often dismissed, resulting in limited to no deterrent effect and consuming police and prosecutor resources,” the documents stated.

Before the resolution was approved, Morton Grove did not have any laws regarding penalties for possession of non-medical marijuana. Instead, the Morton Grove Police Department deferred to state and federal laws.

The village did have regulations for retailers that sold paraphernalia that could be used with marijuana and other drugs. Those regulations, which are still intact, prohibit selling such paraphernalia to residents under 18. Retailer that sells such paraphernalia also must obtain a license and keep records of every purchase.

Trustee Bill Grear also noted that other nearby municipalities, including Chicago, have similar ordinances.

Under the newly approved ordinance, residents caught with small amounts of marijuana would pay a fine of up to $750. For possessing 0.1 – 9.9 grams of marijuana, the minimum fine is $100.  The minimum penalty for possessing 10-19.9 grams of marijuana is $300 and $500 for 20-20.9 grams.

The ordinance also says residents caught with small amounts of marijuana may be required to do community service or attend drug education training. Those penalties are at the discretion of the local adjudication hearing officer and may be imposed in addition to fines or in place of fines.

Anyone caught selling marijuana to minors would be fined $750. Additionally, anyone who knowingly allows residents under 21 years of age to have less than 30 grams of marijuana on their property or in their vehicle would be fined between $300-$750.

Trustees John Pierton and John Thill had questions about the ordinance. Pierton asked if the ordinance would impact the residents that use medical marijuana.

Morton Grove Police Chief Mike Simo said it would have no impact on medical marijuana users whatsoever.

Thill expressed reservations about the fine minimums, noting that the fine for the first violation of the village’s animal control ordinance was $150.

Morton Grove Corporation Counsel Teresa Liston said she was sympathetic to Thill’s concerns but noted that it was beyond the scope of the resolution.

The village board held the first reading on June 8. Thill was absent during the June 22 meeting, when the board held a second reading. After the second reading, the resolution was approved.

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