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CL council kills pot ordinance – for now

CRYSTAL LAKE – The City Council on Tuesday killed a measure that would have decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana with an understanding that the issue will be revisited under a new police chief.

A change to the city’s ordinance regarding marijuana possession was recommended by Police Chief Dave Linder, who will retire at the end of the month. City Council members wanted to wait until James Black takes charge of the department early next year and to give newly-inducted council member Cameron Hubbard, who was seated Tuesday, time to digest the proposal.

Under the proposed ordinance, police officers could issue tickets for small amounts of marijuana rather than make misdemeanor arrests. The maximum allowable amount was up for debate between 15 and 30 grams.

The ordinance change was brought before council members in August. At that time, a majority supported decriminalization, but asked Linder to research the matter further. The police chief surveyed more than 70 municipalities’ stances on possession of the drug, and found that the most common maximum possession threshold was 30 grams or less. Possession of more than 30 grams is a felony under state law.

Marijuana would remain illegal in Crystal Lake, as it is under state and federal law.

Under the proposal, tickets would carry a fine of between $500 and $1,000. A ticket would allow offenders to avoid a criminal conviction or jail.

Linder has said ticketing the crime would free officers for patrol.

“Having the arrests prosecuted through the court system involves a great amount of time by our patrol officers,” Linder wrote in a memo. “... As a result, a crime that can be relatively minor can take several hours to process. If, however, officers were able to ticket offenders for cannabis possession, this would increase the amount of time our officers are patrolling.”

Mayor Aaron Shepley and council members Cathy Ferguson and Brett Hopkins rejected the proposal in August, while Ralph Dawson, Jeffrey Thorsen, Ellen Brady Mueller and Carolyn Schofield backed the decriminalization policy. Schofield is no longer on the City Council after she won a County Board seat in the Nov. 6 election.

Shepley has been one of the ordinance’s most vocal opponents, but said he gladly would defer the discussion until the city has a new chief.

“I can tell you ... that it’s not going to change my opinion of the ordinance one way or another,” Shepley said.

Dawson, Thorsen and Brady Mueller wanted to be sure the issue would come up for discussion at a later date.

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