IL Police Struggle to Make Sense of New Law on Pot

Just a few weeks into the uncharted waters of legal adult-use cannabis in Illinois, some suburban Chicago police departments are facing challenges of not just training officers but also educating the public about what is, and isn’t, allowed, the Chicago Tribune reports. There is a presumption by the public “that it is a legal free-for-all,” said Christopher Mannino, Park Forest’s police chief. “A lot of people don’t understand all the restrictions.”

Under the law, Illinois residents 21 or older can buy up to 30 grams, or an ounce, of marijuana flower at a licensed retailer. But, with the Cook County state’s attorney’s office no longer prosecuting low-level possession cases, even the stuff bought on the street carries a penalty that’s on par with getting a parking ticket. Communities such as Park Forest and Tinley Park are just now starting to divert most possession cases, unless it’s a larger amount that could carry a trafficking charge, to their municipal court, where a fine is the maximum penalty. Possession by those under 21 would also be handled as an ordinance violation. “There is a wide variety of approaches,” Mannino said, with officers now having much more discretion about how or whether to charge. Under the new law, marijuana carried in a vehicle is supposed to be in a sealed, odor-proof and child resistant container that is kept out of sight, and drivers are advised to keep proof of purchase if they’re pulled over. But Tinley Park Chief Matthew Walsh said his officers are questioning what they should do if they come across someone who’s not in a vehicle and carrying pot, but the amount is within the legal limit.

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