Illinois Legislature Votes on Marijuana Decriminalization Bill
A bill has passed the Illinois House and Senate that would decriminalize the possession of 10 grams or less of marijuana and moderate Illinois’s zero tolerance policy for marijuana and driving. Those found possessing small amounts of marijuana would instead be ticketed, and trace amounts of THC found in the bloodstream would no longer mean a DUI.
Under Senate Bill 2228, the criminal penalties for the personal possession of small amounts of marijuana in Illinois would instead become civil violations. Those found in possession of 10 or fewer grams of marijuana would receive a ticket and be subject to a fine of $100 to $200. These civil violations would be automatically expunged from the record twice yearly. Municipalities and local governments could choose to require a violator to attend drug treatment or impose other penalties.
Currently, there are criminal repercussions for marijuana possession in Illinois. The possession of up to 2.5 grams is a class C misdemeanor, punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,500. The possession of between 2.5 and 10 grams is punishable by up to six months’ imprisonment and a fine of up to $1,500.
Marijuana and Driving
The bill also amends the Illinois zero tolerance policy regarding marijuana use and driving. If a driver is found to have less than five nanograms of THC in the blood, or less than 10 nanograms in the saliva, there would be no penalty. Current law says that if any trace of THC is found in a driver’s system, he or she may be charged with driving under the influence.
Gov. Rauner’s Signature
Last year, Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed a similar bill, citing concerns about the amounts of marijuana that would be decriminalized and the high levels of THC that would be allowed in the bloodstream while driving. The old bill’s possession threshold was 15 grams of marijuana, and fines were only $55 to $125. Additionally, the law allowed drivers to have 15 nanograms of THC in the bloodstream without being charged with DUI.
The bill is sponsored by Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago, and received House approval in a 64–50 vote last week. The Senate passed the bill in April by 40–14. Gov. Bruce Rauner is still reviewing the bill, but has said that he is likely to sign it.
The bill would make Illinois the 21st state to decriminalize marijuana possession. Over 100 local governments in Illinois, including Chicago, have already decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana.
Criminal records can be debilitating. They can affect a person’s ability to get a job, find housing, and take educational opportunities. Decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana will allow those who commit trivial drug offenses to be productive citizens and contribute to the community.
Additionally, the new bill will save the state a considerable amount of money. Illinois spends over $38,000 each year per prisoner, and the decriminalization of marijuana possession will reduce the state’s overcrowded prison population.
If you have been charged with marijuana possession or another drug crime, please contact the compassionate Naperville criminal defense attorneys at Law Office of Glenn M. Sowa, LLC for a confidential consultation.