Mayor Rahm Emanuel has asked Illinois state lawmakers to reduce the state’s criminalization of persons who are caught with 15 grams or less of marijuana, according to the Chicago Tribune on Tuesday. Emanuel says he wants the pot offense to be reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor. Also, he wants the penalty for possession of one gram or less of any controlled substance to be reduced to a misdemeanor. Naturally, with Emanuel’s re-election for mayor approaching, every such move is looked at as a potential political stunt to gain support among the masses.
There are those who believe the spotlight on Emanuel before the Illinois lawmakers was no different than his recent proposals to raise the state’s minimum wage and efforts to step up in support of immigration, according to the Sun-Times. Critics and opponents of the mayor say that he is trying to make up for the deficit he has caused himself in regard to the public’s current job approval rating of him. His approval rating is in the tank – severely – with past closings of the city’s schools which still does not sit well with many of his constituents, the horrendous violence and murder rate throughout the city, and such incredible money-grabs as his speed camera initiative which is digging deep into his constituents’ already financially-challenged pockets.
Mayor Emanuel wants the Illinois lawmakers in the state’s General Assembly to go above and beyond what he has done for pot-possessors in his hometown of Chicago. He told the Illinois political powers-that-be that thirteen other states already have laws on the books similar to what he is proposing. He claims that there is no higher rate of drug use in those states as a result.
From a logical standpoint, however, Emanuel asserts that it is time to free up the state’s resources for truly violent offenders who pose a bigger threat to the safety of Illinois’ communities. The mayor said it is time to allow police officers throughout Illinois to keep their focus where it is needed the most.
At his side, Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said that studies show that locking people up for an ounce of narcotics does not dissuade them from using narcotics. He referred to the act of locking them up as an exercise in futility. Though the two teamed up on Tuesday for the drug-possession action, there are those who believe McCarthy is on his way out as Chicago’s top cop. They think Emanuel may throw him under the bus prior to his re-election date to show Chicagoans that he is trying to do something to curb the violence and murder rate in Chicago.
Yet, some of Emanuel’s political opponents are praising his latest effort to ease drug-possession penalties. His strongest mayoral election opponent, 2nd Ward Alderman Bob Fioretti, said that he doesn’t know if this is a political move on Emanuel’s part, but he said that he is glad the mayor is joining the majority on this issue. Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis has publicly opposed Emanuel on most everything he has done during his term as mayor, but she supports Emanuel on the marijuana aspect of his current efforts. She believes more research needs to be done regarding possession of other drugs, however. In regard to pot-possession offenses, she has stated that she would take the measure a step further by legalizing marijuana and taxing it to greatly assist with governmental revenues.