Crystal Lake City Council Poised to Lessen Pot Penalty

Crystal Lake Police Chief Dave Linder reads his proposal to lessen penalties for those found with less than 30 marijuana cigarettes.

With its Home Rule powers, the Crystal Lake City Council signaled a majority is ready to change possession of up to thirty joints from a criminal to a civil offense.

Mayor Aaron Shepley led the opposition with Councilwomen Cathy Ferguson, a social worker, bringing her day job experience to bear.  Joining the three in opposition was Brett Hopkins, who said he saw it “in terms of black and white.”

The proposal, basically to decriminalize marijuana, following the example set by Chicago last month, was presented by Crystal Lake Police Chief Dave Linder after testimony from opponents and proponents.

His proposal “to allow Police to issue tickets for possession of small amounts of cannibals” was based on cost savings to the Department.

He pointed to Woodstock and McHenry as two local cities who had already gone the civil violation route.

Linder insisted his proposal “doesn’t represent softening of Police Department attitude toward drug enforcement,” but would “allow more flexibility…a more efficient option.”

Mayor Shepley came loaded for bear.

While complementing the Chief for bringing forth a proposal that the Chief thought would make law enforcement more efficient,” Shepley said that “at the end of the day what we have a a good old fashioned policy decision in a way that could have consequences.”

Under the proposed ordinance, possession of more than these two spice bottles contain would be allowed before criminal charges would be brought. (The photo had to be posed, because my flash was off and the actual demonstration picture was fuzzy.)  30 grams of marijuana will make about 30 cigarettes.

He then played show and tell, holding up two jars of parsley containing a total of 28 grams.  Possession of more than 30 grams would still be a felony, but in Crystal Lake, if the ordinance passes, the possessor would get a ticket.

“That is not a small amount,” Shepley argued.

Councilwoman Ellen Brady Mueller, one of three members of the CLCHS  Class of 1981, according to classmate Shepley (the other being Hopkins), said,”You could make a lot more thar 20 [joints].

“We’re not going to go soft on drugs,” Linder interjected.  “It gives the officer the availability to use another [option].  We do the same thing for alcohol, synthetic drugs [and] disorderly conduct.  In terms of time management, it’s not fiscally responsible [to arrest people for possession under 30 grams].”

Linder that a large percentage of misdemeanor charges were dismissed by the McHenry County State’s Attorney to which Shepley that perhaps Crystal Lake officials “need to have a discussion with the State’s Attorney’s Office.”

The Mayor also pointed out that the State had no criminal offense for synthetic drugs, so Crystal Lake’s passage of a ticketing offense was more stringent than state law, not less, as the issuing of tickets for marijuana would be.

Comparing ticketing for underage use of alcohol to Lidner’s proposal, Shepley drew a distinction between a drug which is legal for those over 21 and one “our legislature has determined that no matter how old you are you can’t have it.

“My fear with this is that we’re sending a message.

“If you are smart [enough] not to carry more than a certain amount of drugs, there is no possibility of jail time.

“I’m not in favor of this,” Shepley concluded.

Cathy Ferguson pointed to the damage marijuana does.  “I’ve seen the dark side,” she said outside the council chambers.

Next up was Cathy Ferguson.

She zeroed in on arguments that it would cover “youthful indiscretions.”

“This does not cover juvenile cases, right?”

Linder agreed.

Ferguson, who works as a social worker, explained, “I treat kids with substance abuse.  I’m seeing these gets getting their drugs from their parents.

“I agree with you in principle, Aaron, that we’re sending a [bad] message.

“Marijuana of today is not the marijuana [of my youth].  A lot of other substances are cut into marijuana.

“When I look at statements that marijuana hurts no one [asserted by one proponent to the Council], that’s a falsehood.

“I prefer there be jail time attached.”

Ferguson then went after the discretion that the ordinance gives police officers.

“[For] one joint jail time is not warranted.

“Thirty joints deserves jail time.

“There’s too much wiggle room [in the ordinance.”

Introducing a new aspect was Ralph Dawson.

During a break in the marijuana liberalization debate, Ellen Brady Mueller and Ralph Dawson, allies on the replacement of criminal with civil penalties chatted.

“Nothing I’ve seen that David [Linder] has presented that the Department’s doing this for monetary reasons,” he said.

Brett Hopkins said he found Mayor Aaron Shepley’s argument persuasive.

“I believe it will give a lot of people a second chance,” he continued.

“I see nothing negative here…better than hitting [youth] over the head.”

“Actually, I was going to move this to [be] discussion only,” Brett Hopkins said.

“It’s a difficult subject.  I’m pretty black and white.  The drugs are illegal. End of story.”

Carolyn Schofield sided with changing possession of under 30 grams of marijuana from a criminal to a civil offense.

He compares it with enforcement of the sign ordinance.

Carolyn Schofield was next.

“I don’t think this stems from a moral issue.

“If it helps the Police Department–I really believe in him–I want to support him in this,” Schofield said.

Jeff Thorsen trusts the Chief’s judgment.

The last to express his opinion was Jeff Thorsen.

“I think the Chief is the expert on the situation.

“We do have the right to put this into play.

“We set the law.

“Discretion – they think about that everyday.

I don’t thing a $500 to a $1,000 penalty is a minor penalty.

“If the Chief thinks we’re pulling one-third of our officers off the street, the [Chief is making sense].”

In rebuttal to Schofield, who had argued that consequences are not going to change what people do, Shepley observed, “That’s hat our criminal system is all about..  I would respectfully disagree.

“I think it’s absolutely the wrong way to go.”

He pointed out that he has been “insistent with things we have done to preserve the character of Crystal Lake.”

Mueller pointed out that the Council had “changed possession of liquor possession.”

Shepley repeated his argument that liquor was a legal drug, while marijuana was not.

Ferguson also weighed in on the “consequences” debate.

She pointed to why people pay income taxes.

“It comes down to no one wants to mess with them.”

“I’m trying to keep a level playing field.  If you have a better lawyer, you have a better chance of getting off.”

She repeated her concern that there was too much “wiggle room.”

Before the Council voted, Schofield expressed the opinion that the Council could “look at different levels.”

The first motion was to kill the ordinance.

Shepley, Ferguson and Hopkins voted to keep the status quo.

Mueller, Dawson, Schofield and Thorsen voted to change the criminal penalties to civil ones.

Then Mueller seemed to second Schofield’s idea to lower the threshold for a pot ticket.  She suggested 15.

After than the Council agreed to table the proposal until the Police Department had a chance to consider the consequences of some in between proposal.


Crystal Lake City Council Poised to Lessen Pot Penalty — 9 Comments

  1. So let me get this straight, Mr. Linder.

    We’ll place a full time cop at the train station to severely penalize the hard working CL resident trying to get to work when he/she crosses the train tracks when the alarm goes off………

    But, we’ll lighten the penalty for the pot smokers.

    Seems to me, Chief Linder like the flexibility to go after who he wants to go after and minimize the penalty of those doesn’t want to.

    This change in ordinance seems reasonable; I just don’t trust the enforcer.

  2. Tickets = easy money. This is just another cash grab.

    The days of police being there to serve and protect are over…it’s all about income and revenues these days.

  3. CLM: Those types of tickets are warranted.

    It’s for safety.

    People don’t always see the other train, and what if you trip, or your foot gets stuck, or a child follows someone’s lead?

    Wait the extra minute and save yourself the fine.

    On Topic: 30 grams is a considerable amount but not a number that was selected arbitrarily.

    Chicago is 15 grams:

    Most offenses will be in the 5-10 gram range. Send a kid to jail for a joint? Yikes.

    Enact this and free up more resources for more patrols.

  4. 30 grams? 10 grams is a class 4 felony ((720 ILCS 550/4) (from Ch. 56 1/2, par. 704)), how on Earth can Linder and/or Crystal Lake push to decriminalize felony possession of marijuana?

    I know the SAO is not keen on enforcing misdemeanor cannabis laws-it ties up too many resources, public sentiment against labeling youths in possession of recreational amounts, yada yada-but it is unconscionable to decriminalize a felony amount of anything.

    Before anyone compares Chicago and Crystal Lake—please. Chicago has 10-20 shootings over a weekend and Crook County’s SAO resists charging violent felonies so this is most definitely apples and oranges.

    Issue citations (parking tickets) for less than 10 grams and you’ll keep these small misdemeanors out of the Circuit Court.

  5. Really? 10 grams = felony?

    do tell…I dont understand your post … I don’t have a problem with 10 or less either (for the purpose of the ordinance), if that is what you mean for a threshold…any amount more is pure stupidity on the perps part anyway.

  6. really? I think the answer is to not soften the city’s stance on illegal activities in any way.

    What’s next, another “victimless” crime like prostitution?

    Once you open the door, it never closes.

    I think the more appropriate course is to direct offenders with “small” amounts to a diversionary/first offender program.

    I believe this already exists in McHenry County.

    Of course other than Mayor Shepley and Ms. Ferguson, it’s not like Council was listening.

  7. Mayor Shepley looks like a user to me.

    He grin is what tells the tale.

  8. Jeff, read the statutes I quoted. 10 grams or above= felony possession of marijuana.

    I fail to see how a municipality, home rule or not, can effectively decriminalize a felony charge.

    What’s next, a parking citation for homicide?

    I am in now way advocating softening-just a real world evaluation of what’s what.

    Limited court resources, diminished police resources and a liberalized public opinion WILL prompt more of this type of movement-much to the happiness of tokers everywhere.

    That’s not a manifestation of my personal views, it’s the writing on the wall.

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