Three years ago Cook County state’s attorney Anita Alvarez described marijuana as a dangerous “gateway drug” while prosecuting thousands of cases involving the possession of dime bags. But as calls for reform grow louder—and she prepares for a potentially difficult reelection campaign next year—Alvarez has changed her approach. People caught with as much as an ounce of marijuana will now have their cases dropped; if it happens three or more times, they’ll be directed to education programs. Alvarez announced the new policies on April 20, recognized by cannabis enthusiasts around the world as a day to honor (and use) their favorite plant—but she swore the timing was mere coincidence. “April 20 is just April 20 to me,” she said. “I had no clue what 4/20 meant until some of my younger staff told me.” The roomful of reporters began cracking up, and Alvarez started laughing too—which was essentially an acknowledgment that decades of pot policies have themselves been a joke.
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