Decriminalizing of Marijuana in Illinois

 Posted on September 12, 2016 in Drug Crimes

drug possessionAs society’s opinion on marijuana has become more relaxed, many states have taken efforts to decriminalize possessing small amounts of marijuana. Some states have legalized the use of medical marijuana as a treatment for those suffering from health problems. A few, like Oregon and Washington, have even legalized marijuana growth and consumption completely for both medical and non-medical users. Illinois, however, has been slow to follow this trend. After a drawn out battle, medical marijuana just recently became available in the state, and some cities across the state have decriminalized low-level marijuana possession, but the drug remains illegal in much of the state. That may soon change, however, as the Illinois Senate recently approved a measure that would decriminalize low-level marijuana possession statewide.

Toke and Ticket

The Illinois Senate voted 37 to 19 in favor of the legislation, which was passed successfully through the house a month prior. If signed by Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner, those caught possessing 15 grams of marijuana or less, about 25 cigarette-sized joints worth of marijuana, would face a ticket and fine over arrest and jail time. Currently, those arrested for low-level possession face fines of up to $2,500 and a jail sentence of up to one year. Much like getting a traffic ticket, the new penalties would be much less serious, up to $125 in fines without any arrest or court time.

Some Illinois cities, including Chicago, have laws in place that already decriminalize this type of marijuana possession. Lawmakers say that this new measure will not override those city’s laws, but will ensure that low-level marijuana is decriminalized statewide and implement a uniform penalty for possessing small amounts of the drug. Currently, even in cities like Chicago where police officers have the ability to hand out a ticket for low-level possession instead of arresting offenders, many offenders are still arrested. In fact, a recent study found that nearly 99 percent of all marijuana arrests in Illinois are for possession and that many cities that have decriminalization laws in place still have high arrest rates for low-level marijuana possession.

As expected, this new measure does have a few opponents, most who call for more required treatment for marijuana offenders, but Republicans and Democrats all agree that the measure could help save the state money and help further reduce the state's large jail and prison populations.

A Change to Driving and Marijuana

While the measure has been passed in both the House and the Senate, small changes, mostly in wording, are planned before the bill will stop at the Governor's desk. One important change, however, would impact how driving under the influence of marijuana is treated in Illinois. The state currently has a zero-tolerance law in place for those caught driving with marijuana in their system. Marijuana, unlike alcohol, can remain detectable in a person’s body long after they have consumed the substance or felt any mind altering effects, meaning the state’s zero-tolerance law may be arresting people who have not truly consumed marijuana in days and were not under the influence while driving. If the new measure becomes law, drivers would only be arrested for drugged driving if they have 15 nanograms or more of THC per milliliter of blood, or 25 nanograms or more per each milliliter of saliva.

Marijuana Charges Are Serious

While many states have taken major steps to decriminalize and even legalize marijuana, marijuana growth, sales, or consumption are all still illegal in Illinois. Decriminalization of small levels of marijuana may be coming, but for now, those in possession face arrest and serious penalties. For this reason, it is vital for those who are facing marijuana charges to get in touch with a qualified Chicago area criminal defense attorney immediately. Do not leave your future in jeopardy. Call the Law Offices of Hal M. Garfinkel LLC, Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney today at 312-629-0669 to get started.


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