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Pot bust announced day after City Council approves ticketing marijuana users

Updated: June 28, 2012 1:45PM

Chicago Police and federal agents on Thursday showed off eight tons of marijuana seized in the largest bust in at least 20 years but denied delaying an announcement of the grab until after the City Council approved a plan to ticket rather than arrest most marijuana users.

Citing an “ongoing investigation” into the source and distribution of the massive shipment, Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said news of the Tuesday seizure couldn’t have been released sooner without endangering cops who worked on the case.

“We’re talking about an ongoing investigation that it was not appropriate for us to do this two days ago,” McCarthy said at a West Side press conference, surrounded by dozens of green plastic bales filled with dope.

“We had agents and police on the street and there’s no way Garry and I were going to put them at risk,” added Jack Riley, special agent in charge of the Chicago office of the Federal Drug Enforcement Administration.

The City Council voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to allow police to ticket marijuana users caught with no more than 15 grams of the drug. Previously, those users were typically arrested on misdemeanor charges, which McCarthy and Mayor Rahm Emanuel said usually were dismissed later in court.

The marijuana intercepted Tuesday was shipped from Mexico through Texas and is worth at least $40 million. No one was arrested but McCarthy said the investigation is continuing.

The vast amount grabbed likely intended the marijuana was to be distributed through several gangs, authorities said.

“This represents a different level than what’s happening with the gangs on the streets,” McCarthy said, describing the illegal sales of drugs like marijuana, heroin and cocaine as “the lifeblood of gangs that are involved in violence day in and day out.”

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