People busted repeatedly with minor amounts of marijuana could face treatment rather than prosecution under a set of “sweeping” reforms Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez is set to announce on Monday.
The county’s top prosecutor will announce the “first of its kind alternative prosecution program” during a press conference at her office Monday morning, according to a news release.
The program is designed for nonviolent individuals charged with Class 4 felony drug possession and intends to link repeat offenders with social service agencies “for treatment rather than pursuing criminal penalties,” according to the release. Its goal is to begin addressing chronic drug use as a public health issue.
Chicago Police Department spokesman Martin Maloney said Alvarez’s plan is a “welcome step.”
“Mayor [Rahm] Emanuel has long believed that reducing penalties for nonviolent, low-level drug offenses saves taxpayer dollars and, more importantly, keeps nonviolent offenders from a lifetime in the criminal justice system,” Maloney said.
Alvarez spokeswoman Sally Daly said the state’s attorney intends, in most cases, not to prosecute misdemeanor marijuana charges brought against people with no significant history of violence. Individuals with three or more arrests or citations for misdemeanor marijuana possession will instead be referred to drug school, she added.
Class 4 felony drug possession cases made up 25 percent of Cook County’s felony cases in 2014, according to Alvarez’s office. That’s in addition to 15,000 misdemeanor cases for possession of small amounts of marijuana.