Illinois Senate Votes To Decriminalize Marijuana

On Tuesday, one day before April 20, the Illinois Senate passed SB2228, a marijuana decriminalization bill, in a 40-14 vote. The bill is now in the House of Representatives and if it is passed there and signed into law by the Governor, Illinois will join the 20 other states where marijuana is decriminalized.

In regards to the bill, one of the its sponsors, Heather Steans, told Illinois public radio station, WUIS, “Right now many municipalities across Illinois already do it this way, through a civil offense, This is now just saying nowhere can somebody be charged criminally for possession of small amounts of marijuana.”

Under the proposed legislation, possession of 10 grams or less of marijuana will only be met with a fine up to $200. Last year’s proposal set 15 grams as the limit with a fine up to $125 but was shot down by the Governor because it was perceived to be too lax. This year’s proposal isn’t too bad when compared to current Illinois law where 10 grams would land you 6 months in jail and/or a fine up to $1500.

Those opposed to the bill argue that the bill is still too lax saying that 10 grams is the equivalent of 20 cigarette-sized joints.

“Quite frankly, they can be different sizes, One of my colleagues says the way she would roll them, it’d be about three.” said Steans, poking fun at the argument.

Not only will this bill decriminalize marijuana, but it will change the way Illinois handles drivers under the influence. Under current law, drivers can be charged if any trace of marijuana is found in their system. Instead, the bill establishes a limit akin to Washington and Colorado – 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood, or 10 nanaograms of THC in saliva.

A senior legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project, Chris Lindsey, said in a statement: “Illinois spends way too much money imposing costly criminal penalties on people who are found in possession of a personal amount of marijuana, Serious penalties should be reserved for people who commit serious crimes, not used to punish marijuana consumers.”

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