Lowered fines are helpful

Students should rejoice that DeKalb reduced charges for possession of marijuana, as drug-related offenses accounted for the highest volume of arrests on and around campus from 2013-2015.

When Gov. Bruce Rauner amended the Cannabis Control Act last July, possession of 10 grams or less of cannabis was reduced to a civil law violation punishable by a fine between $100 and $200, according to Senate Bill 2228. Possession of this amount was previously considered a Class B misdemeanor punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a $1500 fine.

As of Jan. 1, DeKalb County’s Possession of Cannabis and Possession of Drug Paraphernalia Ordinance, which mirrors the state amendment, was enacted.

Cannabis has been inching towards destigmatization in recent years both medically and recreationally, with nine states having legalized non-medical marijuana, according to a Jan. 8 Business Insider article.

Although DeKalb has not taken that large of a leap, this baby step is still worth celebration.

These far more progressive repercussions for possession will allow students to catch a much-needed break, especially considering the 72 drug-related arrests and 282 drug-related judicial referrals made in 2015, according to the 2016-2017 Annual Safety and Security report.

These numbers reflect a much higher probability of students possessing marijuana, as other offenses, such as those relating to the Violence Against Women Act or hate crimes, did not accrue more than 40 total reports in their respective categories.

“I think this is a good way to stay contemporary with where we are,” DeKalb Police Chief Gene Lowery said during a September City Council meeting.

Lowery said in the meeting that he served as a law enforcement official in a city that attempted to decriminalize possession of up to 30 grams of marijuana, though he said the efforts were not well received by the community.

Despite the lack of positive reception in this undisclosed community, DeKalb officials should consider reducing fines for even larger amounts of marijuana.

In Colorado, where marijuana can be legally purchased and used recreationally, both residents and tourists can purchase 28 grams of marijuana in a single transaction. This would serve as an adequate benchmark for further decriminalization efforts.

The Northern Star Editorial Board can be reached at editor@northernstar.info.