Cash-strapped Chicago mulls easing marijuana law

By DON BABWIN | November 2, 2011 | 4:20 PM EDT

Chicago Alderman Richard Mell, left, speaks during a news conference Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2011, in Chicago, accompanied by several aldermen who support an ordinance that would turn possession of a small amount of marijuana from a misdemeanor into an infraction that is no more serious than a traffic citation.  Alderman Danny Solis says his ordinance that would require people caught with 10 grams or less of marijuana to pay a $200 fine would mean about $7 million a year in revenue for the city. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

CHICAGO (AP) — A Chicago alderman says he's found a way for the city to raise desperately needed cash that will also keep more police officers on the street: Marijuana.

Alderman Danny Solis introduced an ordinance to the City Council on Wednesday making possession of small amounts of marijuana a ticketable offense with a $200 fine rather than a misdemeanor that carries jail time.

He estimates the change would generate $7 million a year and would save police and courthouse workers money and thousands of hours of time.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel hasn't endorsed the ordinance, but says he's instructed the police superintendent to study it.

Similar laws exist elsewhere in the U.S., but unlike places where the debate centers on marijuana use, the focus in Chicago has been almost entirely on money.