Cannabis arrests have decreased sharply over the last three years in the five largest Chicago suburbs following state-wide decriminalization, the Aurora Beacon-News reports. Over that time, arrests for cannabis possession dropped between 63 percent and 80 percent from 2015 to 2018 in Aurora, Elgin, Joliet, Naperville, and Waukegan.
Lawmakers in the state legalized cannabis for adult use last year; however, those laws don’t take effect until January.
Some communities in Aurora, Joliet, Waukegan and Elgin have been identified by the state as having high arrest or incarceration rates since 2009; Naperville data wasn’t identified, the report says.
Arrests in Joliet dropped by 79 percent from 2015 to 2018; in Elgin by 74 percent; in Aurora they dropped 69 percent; and in Waukegan they fell 63 percent, according to the analysis of police department data by the Beacon-News. In Naperville, the rate dropped most substantially – 84 percent – but police officials warned that drop could be due to how arrests are classified.
Conservatively, cannabis-related arrests in Naperville dropped from 260 in 2015 to 42 in 2018. While in Aurora, arrests fell from 659 in 2015 to 202 in 2018, and in Waukegan, they dropped from 201 to 74. Joliet saw arrests drop from 233 in 2015 to 49 in 2018, and in Elgin from 252 to 66, according to the newspaper analysis of law enforcement data.
In addition to the state-wide reforms – which decriminalized possession of up to 10 grams – Cook County stopped prosecuting most low-level cannabis offenses in 2015.
Steven Stelter, president of the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police told the Beacon-News that the changes forced courts to look at possession charges as “just a real minor offence” and “just throw it out” so many departments stopped making arrests for possession.
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