Illinois to Decriminalize Small Amounts of Marijuana

In Illinois, Gov. Bruce Rauner allegedly plans to sign a bill that would allow possession of small amounts of marijuana to be punishable by fines – not jail time.

According to Sen. Heather Steans, a Chicago Democrat and chief sponsor of the bill, the Rauner administration is on board with the bill but wants to give the Illinois State Police a month to prepare for the new legislation. “Part of the review process is working with the Illinois State Police to ensure that the law can be implemented in the best interests of the public,” Rauner spokeswoman Catherine Kelly told the Daily Herald. Not only will the bill turn the possession of ≤ 10 grams of marijuana into a civil offense instead of a criminal one, but would also change the marijuana related DUI standard.

While the proposal passed with support from both Democrats and Republicans, some members of local law enforcement are still skeptical on whether or not the changes would make current issues worse. The executive director of the Illinois Sheriff’s Association, Greg Sullivan, is concerned that the bill doesn’t differentiate between adults and minors who are caught with marijuana. When talking about drug use by younger teenagers he said “as long as someone can afford the fines, guess what, I may never know it as a parent. I’ve got a problem with that.” He talks about how, if the bill passes in the current state, parents may never know if their child has been using drugs.

Police in over 100 different Illinois communities, including Chicago, are already given discretion on whether or not issue citations instead of making arrests for possession of small amounts of marijuana. An argument for why the bill should be passed is that the ability to pick and choose who gets fined and who gets arrested should not be up to the law enforcement officer on the scene; there should be consistency throughout the state. Democratic Rep. Kelly Cassidy of Chicago, tells those who oppose these changes that “we have a system where, where you live or what you look like determines whether you get a ticket.” So the less-strict punishments for petty crimes would not have as great a social impact as the opposition states.

In order to prevent people from being burdened with permanent records for minor offenses that make it difficult to find jobs or housing in certain areas, municipalities would be required to purge possession citation records every six months. Assuming the local government decides against it, that is.

Rauner said he’d sign the bill if the fine for 10 grams or less was between $100 – $200 and the DUI standard for driving with marijuana in the system should 5 nanograms of THC within two hours of consumption.

The bill with his proposed changes, is currently sitting on his desk, waiting to be signed.

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