New drug policy gives students second chance

By Crystal Kang

The Urbana City Council passed a draft ordinance on Tuesday night that loosens the punishment on individuals found to be in possession of cannabis and drug paraphernalia.

This amendment provides people in Urbana an opportunity to learn from their mistakes by paying a lesser price – a fine ranging from $135 to $1,000 – instead of receiving a drug conviction.

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The ordinance allows students, after their first offense, to move on with their lives without worrying about whether they will be able to get a job, enter college or receive a valid driver’s license, city attorney Ron O’Neal said.

Instead of the Illinois State Police becoming directly involved when criminals are caught for possession of a miniscule amount of illegal drugs, the ordinance will allow Urbana police to handle these cases.

Assistant Chief of Police Patrick J. Connolly supported the idea that allowing the local police to deal with the smaller drug-related issues lifts a load off of the upper-echelon courts.

“We already know that these drugs are violations of the state law,” said Connolly.

Smaller offenses will be removed from the Urbana Circuit Court, Connolly said, and it will prevent people from having records sent to the FBI.

“These low-level violations can be figured out by the lower courts,” Connolly said.

O’Neal said this policy will help avoid not only racial discrimination when it comes to degree of punishment but will equally benefit “people who deserve a second chance.”

Alderman Brandon Bowersox, Ward 4, also believed the ordinance would benefit students and Urbana residents.

“That kind of policy will help everyone get a second chance and see the progression of the law,” Bowersox said.