Reducing the penalties for having small amounts of marijuana is an idea Chicago’s mayor is floating. Any idea to do the same statewide would receive a difference of opinion at the Capitol.

“We’re not going to legalize it,” says State Rep. LaShawn Ford (D-Chicago), “but I think that if (users) have to pay a fine, I believe that it will cause them to use less.”

Under the proposal being considered in Chicago, possession of small amounts of marijuana would not be a crime resulting in an arrest, prosecution and possible jail time. Instead it would be a violation, dealt with via a ticket and an administrative appeal, and punishable with a fine which, if paid, would leave the offender with no criminal record.

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To State Rep. Dennis Reboletti (R-Elmhurst), the more important factors are: giving police and prosecutors discretion, and helping people get help. “Sometimes the rock bottom is being locked up in jail, and I’ve had recovering addicts tell me that; that that intervention is what helped them turn around.”

Reboletti, a former prosecutor, says marijuana has been proven to be a gateway to such harder drugs as heroin. Ford says what marijuana is really a gateway to is prison, as having a record takes away many opportunities for people to stay on the straight and narrow.

(Copyright WBGZ Radio/