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POT TICKET MAP: Which Neighborhoods Have Seen the Most Possession Tickets

By Mark Konkol | August 7, 2013 6:22am
 Marijuana tickets in Chicago
Marijuana tickets in Chicago
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THE LOOP — After Gov. Pat Quinn signed a law making medical pot legal in Illinois, Tammy Jacobi, who ran a legal weed shop in Michigan, announced plans to start a medical marijuana clinic in Wicker Park.

She might want to consider Portage Park instead.

Police wrote more pot possession tickets in the Northwest Side working-class enclave than anywhere else in town between August 2012 and April 1, a DNAinfo.com Chicago review of public records shows.

Portage Park was where police issued 64 of 540 pot tickets during that seven-month period. That’s more than double the number of tickets in any other neighborhood, records show.

Ald. Tim Cullerton (38th), who represents Portage Park, said he analyzed city ticket data earlier this year and found that many of the people ticketed for pot possession didn't live in his ward.

"A good percentage of people cited weren't even from the city," Cullerton said. "I see that our undercover units are aggressive stopping cars, and most of these tickets were issued during vehicle stops. We have a lot of people passing through."

Though Cullerton said he "never smoked a joint" in his life, he said he has smelled pot smoke in the neighborhood.

"I go up to the Jewel, and sometimes there's somebody waiting in a car for someone, and you can smell them smoking a joint," he said. "Who knows where those people are from?"

Portage Park's relatively high number of pot tickets might have something to do with his neighborhood's lower crime rate, Cullerton said.

"In other areas, police find marijuana when they're looking for guns and gangbangers, and crime here comparatively isn't as bad as somewhere else," he said. "So if they find someone, they write it up, when maybe somewhere else [officers] are on to bigger and better things."

The City Council, with Mayor Rahm Emanuel's backing, moved to decriminalize possession of less than 15 grams of marijuana.

Starting last August, police were given authority to ticket people caught with pot rather than hauling them to jail on misdemeanor charges that carry sentences of up to six months in jail and a $1,500 fine, but rarely lead to convictions. 

Police wrote at least one pot ticket in 67 of Chicago’s 77 community areas, the data shows.

Most tickets were issued in mostly minority parts of town, including Austin, where police wrote 30 pot tickets, North Lawndale (28) and Roseland (21).

Neighborhoods with vibrant night life where you can get hand-blown glass pipes and 3-foot water bongs typically used for smoking weed — Lakeview and West Town, among them — saw significantly fewer pot tickets.

For instance, police wrote just three pot tickets in West Town, which includes the Wicker Park neighborhood where Jacobi plans to open her clinic. Only seven people received pot tickets in Lakeview, the data shows.