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Legislation that Decriminalizes Marijuana Sent to the Illinois State Senate

Apr 24, 2015 • 5:30 PM EDT
IL.png
3 MIN READ  •  By Michael Berger
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On Thursday, the Illinois House of Representatives approved legislations that would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana. The effect of this law would be that, if you were caught with a small amount of marijuana, you would receive a fine instead of being arrested.

If you were caught with less than 15 grams of marijuana you would receive a penalty similar to a traffic ticket. Offenders will not have to go to court but would instead have to pay a fine of up to $125. Previously, you would have to pay a fine of up to $2,500 and you could spend up to one year in jail.

Passage of the bill comes only a few days after Cook County State Attorney Anita Alvarez announced that her office would stop prosecuting low-level marijuana possession cases for people with fewer than three arrests or citations. The legislation follows a measure enacted in Chicago in 2012 that allowed police to issue tickets of $250 to $500 for persons caught with 15 grams or less of marijuana.

Bill creates a uniform penalty throughout the state

Democratic Representative Kelly Cassidy sponsored the legislation and he said that the measure would not override laws in cities such as Chicago that already have fines in place for marijuana possession. The goal of the legislation is to create a uniform penalty throughout the state and eliminate the option for police to arrest people caught carrying small amounts of marijuana.

“We currently have a patchwork of local ordinances where there is the possibility of getting a ticket but not a given that you’ll get a ticket, so it’s an open question where you go whether you’re going to get arrested or get a ticket,” Cassidy said. “That creates a system whereby it depends on where you live, and what you look like, and unfortunately more often than not, it is folks who are black and brown who are being arrested, who are being pulled off the streets, pulled away from their jobs and their families and put into our jails and prisons.”

Bill receives support from both Republican and Democratic lawmakers

The proposal drew support from both Republican and Democratic lawmakers. Republican Representative Ron Sandack said the legislation is in line with Governor Bruce Rauner’s goal of reducing the incarcerate rate of adults and juveniles by 25% over the next decade.

“I think police have been bogged down with petty possession crimes,” Sandack said. “I think courts have been bogged down with petty possession crimes. These people, they’re not dealers. They have no intent to sell.”

The bill has also seen support from Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, the Illinois Bar Association and the State Attorney’s office. They said that the measure would help relieve an overburdened court system.

One of the bill’s provision has seen pushback

One of the bill’s provisions has seen pushback from lawmakers. That provision would prevent drivers who test positive for small traces of marijuana from being charged with driving under the influence.

“It’s like a slap on the wrist. There’s no penalty,” said Republican Representative Keith Wheeler. “The effect of the bill, in some people’s minds, is that marijuana is a less offensive drug than alcohol in Illinois. That concerns me.”

The bill has been sent to the Illinois State Senate who are expected to debate and decide upon on the legislation sometime in May. Cassidy said that she expects the bill to move a little more easily through the Senate. She also said that she expects Governor Rauner to sign the bill given his goal of reducing the prison population.

Cassidy said, “They tend to be a more progressive body than the House, so I feel pretty comfortable over there. I’ve had very encouraging conversations with the governor. I think this is very much in line with the criminal justice reform agenda he has embraced.” 

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Authored By

Michael Berger

Michael Berger is Managing Partner of StoneBridge Partners, LLC and Founder of Technical420.com. Prior to entering the cannabis industry, Michael was an Equity Research Analyst at Raymond James Financial covering the Energy Sector. Michael has been featured in publications such as The Street, Bloomberg, US Money News, and hosts various cannabis events across North America.

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