Marijuana Decriminalization Bill Sent Back with Changes by Governor

marijuana, decriminalization, Illinois Defense LawyerA bill that would make low-level marijuana possession a civil offense comparable to a traffic ticket failed to garner the full support of Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner earlier this month. Instead, the Republican governor sent the measure back to the legislature with his proposed amendments. Under the provisions of an amendatory veto, the House and Senate can elect to approve the bill with Rauner’s changes or to let it die and propose a new bill at a later date.

Gubernatorial Amendments

In his veto letter, the governor took issue with several of the bill’s specifics, while expressing support for the decriminalization effort. Governor Rauner has previously stated that he hopes to reduce the state’s prison population by 25 percent in the next ten years, and he acknowledged the marijuana bill as a potential contributor to his goal.  He believes, however, the proposed law was too lenient in a number of areas, including the possession limit and specified fines.

As passed by the House and Senate, the law would have made possession of up to 15 grams of marijuana a petty violation rather than a criminal offense. Violators would be issued a citation and required to pay fines ranging from $55 to $100. There would be no cumulative effects for repeat possession offenders and a violation would be automatically expunged after six months. The governor’s version is similar, but would make possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana a petty violation, punishable by fines ranging from $100 to $200.

Sponsor Reaction

Democratic Representative Kelly Cassidy, Chicago, who introduced the bill in the House in January, was not thrilled with the governor’s decision. She that the proposed measure had been adjusted many times during the approval process, with input from people she believed were working on behalf of the governor. If reducing prison population is part of the goal, she could not understand Rauner’s rationale for a veto over 5 grams of marijuana. “Does [it] make us safer? I would argue it doesn’t,” she observed. Cassidy and other proponents of the original bill must now decide their next move, and will take some time to carefully consider their options.

In the meantime, marijuana possession technically remains a criminal offense under Illinois law. If you or a family member has been charged with possession or any other drug crime, contact an experienced Chicago criminal defense lawyer. At the Law Offices of Hal M. Garfinkel LLC, Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney, we are equipped to help you protect your future no matter what type of drug charges you may be facing. Call 312-270-0999 for a free consultation today.

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