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Reaction positive to city’s move to ticket pot users

Updated: July 29, 2012 5:11PM

Nobody asked what the Chicago City Council was smoking when it passed a new ordinance allowing police to ticket — rather than arrest — most marijuana smokers.

Chicagoans interviewed Wednesday backed the plan to issue tickets for those caught with no more than 15 grams of pot, saying it should raise money while freeing police to deal with more serious crime.

“It seems to make sense to me,” said Mark Ulrich, 40. “It leaves the court system free to handle more serious things.”

The change isn’t “dramatic” for Ulrich, a near West Sider who grew up in Ann Arbor, Mich., where dope smokers for years have been ticketed, rather than arrested.

“I don’t think they should be arrested. Just give them the ticket — that makes more sense,” agreed Chicago resident Kamisha Michel, 23.

Other residents focused on the financial gain, saying Chicago likely will collect more cash in fines.

“I don’t object to it. I see it as another way to make money,” agreed Venky Bojan, 29, a North Sider, who said he’d like to see some of the fines collected go for drug education programs.

“I see nothing wrong with getting some money out of it,” said Dan Foot, 29, adding he wouldn’t mind if Illinois legislators even considered legalizing — and taxing — marijuana use.

“Think how much revenue that would mean for the state,” Foot said.

A group pushing to legalize marijuana use hailed the city’s new policy as “an important first step” toward that goal, despite denials by Mayor Rahm Emanuel that the new policy takes the city in that direction.

“It almost becomes a de facto tax on cannabis users without endorsing the legalization of it,” said Dan Linn, Illinois director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

But the money generated by fines likely will demonstrate the benefits of legalizing — and then regulating — marijuana use, he said.

“You take an underground, illegal economy and now you can have controls. You can regulate and tax it,” Linn said.

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