Normal – People caught in Normal with up to 10 grams of marijuana will face fines higher than the state-mandated minimums under a policy approved Monday.
Offenders will pay between $350 and $1,000 under the ordinance for possession of up to 10 grams.
The policy is in response to a state law passed last month that decriminalizes possession up to 10 grams. The law sets minimum penalties of $100 to $200 but leaves municipalities flexibility to levy higher fines.
Among council members, Jeff Fritzen said he favors higher fines while Cheryl Gaines spoke in favor of decriminalizing marijuana.
“This goes well beyond parents and our community. … A lot of the (Mexican and Central American) drug lords, this is their way of making money, and they’re not going to worry about who gets hurt,” said Gaines. “The war on drugs surely has not worked. … Let’s tax it. Let’s sell it. Have it grown here where people can know what’s in it.”
Fritzen said he understands what supporters say are the benefits of decriminalization, including lowering prison costs and “leniency toward sticking somebody with a criminal record,” but “there are plenty of reasons to continue to be strident.”
“It’s becoming the (preferred) illicit substance for youth that used to be alcohol,” said Fritzen of marijuana. “The answer isn’t putting everybody in jail, but I also don’t think the answer is a light slap on the hand.”
Fritzen added he “would encourage our folks in Springfield to now turn their attention to the important matters of the state’s finances.” Illinois is operating on a temporary budget.
In other business, the council approved:
Consultant WSP/Parsons-Brinckerhoff will negotiate a contract to perform the study, which is expected to take two years and cost about $1.5 million.
Public Works Director Wayne Aldrich said the study also will examine other options, including an overpass and not building either structure.
If the council decides to proceed with an underpass after the study, construction design will take up to a year, and construction could take two years, said Aldrich. That would put completion in fall 2021.
“Not only will this information be essential to all of you in making a decision as to how to proceed, it will be absolutely essential for us to compete effectively for federal (grant) dollars (for the project),” Normal City Manager Mark Peterson told the council.
The company has started building infrastructure in Bloomington and will do so in Normal very soon with completion expected in two years, said Peterson.