Illinois weighs decriminalization of marijuana

The Illinois Senate passed a measure on Wednesday to decriminalize possession of marijuana, a move which appears to have the support of Governor Bruce Rauner.

Under current Illinois law, possession of any amount of marijuana exceeding 2.5 grams is punishable by minimum $1,500 fine and a six-month jail term.  Amounts surpassing 10 grams but not exceeding 30 grams are considered a Class IV felony and punishable by a one-year jail term and a $1,500 fine.

In contrast, the Illinois Senate bill advances significant modifications to current law and punishes possession up to 10 grams with a minimum fine of $100 and not exceeding $200; the bill also proposes marijuana offenses be re-classified as a civil offense with the possibility breaches of the law can be expunged from the offender’s record.

The motion in the Illinois Senate follows over 100 communities which have taken similar steps to reduce excessive penalties for marijuana possession.

“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,” said state Senator Heather Steans, a co-sponsor of the bill.

In a statement released by the Marijuana Policy Project, analyst Chris Lindsey averred:

“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.”

Mired in a virtual standstill on budget negotiations, the bill in front of the Illinois Senate moved fairly quickly and passed 40-14 with 11 Republicans and three Democrats casting votes against the measure.

The bill is expected to pass the Illinois House and, if signed by Governor Rauner, would make the Prairie State the 21st to enact measures reducing penalties for marijuana possession.

 

[RT News] [ilga.gov] [norml.org] [mpp.org] [Photo courtesy hightimes.com]