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Huge news for drug reform and residents of Cook County. According to the county’s State Attorney Anita Alvarez, anyone caught with 30 grams of marijuana or less on their first or second offense will not be prosecuted. On a third offense offenders will be sent to drug schooling.

“What we are doing is simply not working,”

Alvarez said Monday morning.

She noted the huge waste time and money spent on cycling small time drug offenders in and out of the penal system, with the new approach based on “treatment instead of traditional prosecution.”

Additionally, offenders charged with a Class 4 felony who have a non-violent history will be sent to social service agencies for drug abuse treatment. Successful completion of the program will result in dropped charges.

“In drug school, the success is phenomenal. Ninety-percent of the people complete it and around 85-percent don’t have further drug arrest,”

Pam Rodriguez, Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities (TASC) CEO said. TASC helps approximately 2,000 drug offenders a year with community-based treatment. One can imagine that with this new policy TASC stands to see their patient count rise dramatically.

“I am not promoting any drug use. I am not promoting legalization of anything,” Alvarez said.

“We have to ask ourselves are we being smart here? Are we giving people services they need? Or are we going to continue processing these cases?”

Many Illinois communities have already moved to issuing citations instead of prosecution in low level marijuana cases. Alvarez stated these tickets will still count as an arrest and offenders will still be liable for paying the fines.

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