Best Baby Step Forward on Pot Policy

Chicago moves toward sort of almost decriminalizing possession

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Marijuana went mainstream long ago—it's widely used across racial and economic lines, and pollsters say Americans who favor legalization now outnumber those who don't. Yet most politicians remain so freaked out about being called soft on crime that they don't want so much as a whiff of the issue. Around here the roster of elected officials willing to defend the status quo includes everyone from south-side homeowner Barack Obama to most state lawmakers—who won't even sign off on a pilot program to allow medical marijuana for the terminally and chronically ill. Meanwhile, possession busts cost local taxpayers more than 1,100 cop hours and $1 million a week. Slowly, though, budget problems are starting to force leaders to pull their heads out of the clouds. The most significant move came from Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who on June 15 announced support for a proposal to make possession of up to 15 grams a ticketable offense. Expect others to follow suit now that the mayor has cleared the way—and beware of just how the new procedures will be used, since police will still have the option of arresting possessors and hauling them to lockup.