On April 20th, 2015, the Cook County state’s attorney’s office announced that it would be changing how they deal with low-level drug offenses, including misdemeanor pot possession. The state’s attorney’s office stated that offenders with fewer than three arrests or citations caught with a misdemeanor amount of marijuana would no longer be prosecuted. The changes will also apply to possession of small amounts of other illegal drugs such as heroine and cocaine.
In the alternative, those offenders who qualify will be directed to a treatment program and will be connected with social service agencies. Those that qualify and complete treatment would avoid facing criminal penalties. The program will apply to those charged with a Class 4 felony possession, a charge that currently is punishable by up to three years in prison and up to a $25,000 fine. Class 4 felony drug possession accounts for 25% of all Cook County felony cases.
The goal of the program is to address the issue of repeated drug use and steer offenders towards treatment rather than punishment. The state’s attorney’s office has continued to see the same non-violent offenders come through the system and it has been a significant cost to taxpayers.
While the changes will not affect pending cases, the Cook County state’s attorney’s office hopes the changes will allow the criminal justice system to concentrate on more dangerous crimes.
What do you think of the law change? Do you think it’s a good idea, or do you think the state’s attorney’s office is being easy on drug possession? Leave your thoughts in the comments section.