CHICAGO (STNG) ― Tiny plastic bags used to sell small quantities of heroin, crack cocaine, marijuana and other drugs would be banned in Chicago, under a crackdown advanced Tuesday by a City Council committee.
Ald. Robert Fioretti (2nd) persuaded the Health Committee to ban possession of "self-sealing plastic bags under two inches in either height or width," after picking up 15 of the bags on a recent Sunday afternoon stroll through a West Side park.
Lt. Kevin Navarro, commanding officer of the Chicago police Department's Narcotics and Gang Unit, said the ordinance will be an "important tool" to go after grocery stores, health food stores and other businesses. The bags are used by the thousands to sell small quantities of drugs at $10 or $20 a bag.
Navarro referred to the plastic bags as "Marketing 101 for the drug dealers." Many of them have symbols, allowing drug users to ask for "Superman" or "Blue Dolphin" instead of the drug itself, he said.
Prior to the final vote, Ald. Walter Burnett (27th) expressed concern about arresting innocent people. He noted that extra buttons that come with suits, shirts and blouses -- and jewelry that's been repaired -- come in similar plastic bags.
Burnett was reassured by language that states "one reasonably should know that such items will be or are being used" to package, transfer, deliver or store a controlled substance. Violators would be punished by a $1,500 fine.
Health Committee Chairman Ed Smith (28th) said the ban is part of a desperate effort to stop what he called "the most destructive force" in Chicago neighborhoods.
"We need to use every measure that we possibly can to stop it because it is destroying our kids," he said.