The Chicago Police Department has issued a new directive on smoking weed just two weeks after the legalization of marijuana in Illinois.
The new edict was issued to officers on Thursday, instructing them not to issue citations to anyone using marijuana on their own porch, patio, or balcony–or in their own backyard.
The rule has changed two weeks into the new law, as the CPD had previously told officers that anyone smoking pot in areas visible to the public was to be ticketed.
Recreational use of the drug became legal in Illinois on January 1, stipulating that the use of cannabis in any public place was prohibited.
Facing controversy, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and interim CPD Supt. Charlie Beck has now issued a statement saying the Department “recognizes that an individual using cannabis in their own backyard or balcony poses no direct threat to public safety, and no resident should be arrested or ticketed solely for such a scenario.”
The new directive adds that anyone arrested for an unrelated offense such as shoplifting should also not have weed confiscated from them as ‘recovered narcotics’. The revised plan is to inventory any seized cannabis and return it as personal property; it may later be picked up from the Evidence and Recovered Property Section at the CPD’s Homan Square building.
Speaking to the Chicago Sun-Times, CPD spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said the law still allows officers to issue citations for some cannabis use on private property, but it isn’t considered a priority.
Guglielmi added the Department is ‘not as interested in people using recreational marijuana unless there’s a direct correlation to violent crime or inhibiting public safety’.
“We have far greater things to be focused on than people using recreational marijuana,” he said.
The spokesman did add that users could expect police interference if multiple 911 calls reported cannabis use that was disturbing others.
Hit with criticism over confusion surrounding the new law, Lightfoot told reporters: “Look, look, we’re all working through the new world order together.
“The Police Department is putting out some specific training to make sure that officers understand that, in this new world, marijuana is obviously legalized. That changes entirely what the regulatory framework is gonna be. And I expect them to follow the law.”
Officers have added that the laws on searching vehicles for pot will soon be changed to keep up with the changing society, too.
At a cannabis meeting at Malcolm X College, CPD Sgt. Joe Bird told the public that policies would be updated although currently, officers still have the right to search vehicles at the side of the road if they can smell pot.
There are also no plans to change the laws surrounding weed-smoking in hotel rooms. The hospitality sector is waiting with bated breath to find out whether offering smoking rooms elsewhere will boost tourism.
President and CEO of the Illinois Hotel and Lodging Association added that the industry was looking toward events in Colorado to see how the legalization of cannabis might impact the sector.
In terms of shopping, cannabis may now be sold in license-holding shops across Chicago. Under revised laws, residents are permitted to buy up to 30 grams of marijuana products totaling no more than 500mg of THC, while the visitor allowance is capped at 15 grams.
Paul Steward, Lightfoot’s policy advisor, has told Chicagoans that the Department has recognized the issue of residents finding themselves ‘falsely or aggressively arrested or convicted over small offenses’ and that it will take steps to put this right.
He added: “Part of addressing that is new training that the Chicago Police Department is currently undergoing, in order to not move back to the same overly aggressive punitive charges and enforcement actions that have impacted these communities over the years.”