Arguing that current policies don’t work, two more public officials are calling for serious changes in marijuana laws and their enforcement.
State rep La Shawn K. Ford and Alderman Walter Burnett Jr. told me in separate conversations that they not only favor decriminalizing marijuana possession to keep more pot smokers out of jail—as Cook County Board president Toni Preckwinkle has advocated—but are also open to discussions about legalizing it.
“We’re putting so many people in jail, it costs us money, and it’s just a waste because folks do it anyway,” Burnett says.
Ford decried the racial disparities in the enforcement of marijuana laws, citing figures Ben Joravsky and I reported in two recent investigations (which you can find here and here): African-Americans account for 78 percent of those arrested, 89 percent of those convicted, and 92 percent of those jailed for low-level marijuana possession in Chicago.
“Marijuana is not a gateway to the next hard drug, but the gateway to prison,” says Ford, who represents a district (the Eighth) that stretches from Chicago’s west side into the suburbs.