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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.

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Illinois defense attorney, Illinois criminal lawyer, drug crimes, Illinios drug laws,Marijuana is a controversial substance in America. States like Oregon, Washington and Colorado have recently legalized recreational use of marijuana, and the stigma surrounding the substance seems to be slowly fading across the country. In Illinois, opinions are mixed. Despite multiple setbacks, the state’s pilot program for legalized medical marijuana is going strong, with 29 dispensaries currently in business across the state. A bill to decriminalize marijuana in Illinois was vetoed last year, but a similar measure has recently been revived. Will Illinois follow suit with more relaxed marijuana legislation, or possibly legalize the substance for recreational use?

New Decriminalization Measure Submitted to Illinois Senate

A new measure was recently introduced into the Illinois Senate that would decriminalize marijuana in the state. A similar bill died last year after Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner vetoed the bill, calling for tighter restrictions. This new measure, which would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana, does include many of the changes the Governor suggested. Per the new measure, possession of any amount of marijuana under 10 grams would result in a ticket rather than arrest. Fines would range from $100 to $200, and the new bill also lowers the limit at which a driver can be charged with drugged driving due to marijuana.

Supporters of the measure, including state prosecutors, say the more relaxed marijuana legislation will allow state authorities to put their already stretched resources to better use. Opponents of the measure worry that drug users will not have as easy access to treatment if they are not directed to it by the legal system, and fear the message decriminalizing marijuana could send to children. Profitable Pot As the debate on decriminalizing marijuana in Illinois continues, the recently legalized medical marijuana industry is reporting large profits. Since the Illinois medical marijuana pilot program was launched on November 9th, 2015, total retail sales have reached over $4.4 million. Medical marijuana shops across the state say February 2016 was their most profitable month to date, with nearly $1.5 million in sales brought in during that one month alone. Twenty-nine shops are currently open for business, and a total of 3,042 patients were served during the month of February. Edibles and marijuana concentrates become more available throughout February as well, accounting for over $300,000 of the month’s total sales. In Illinois, wholesalers pay a 7 percent tax, meaning that in February alone the medical marijuana industry brought in around $83,000 in taxes. The pilot program is four years in total, and will end in 2018. A Shift in Opinions Public opinion on marijuana is also changing. According to a new poll conducted by the Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University, approximately 82 percent of Illinois voters say they support legalized medical marijuana. Only 16 percent of voters said they disapproved, a major change compared to a similar poll conducted in 2013. Only three years ago, 32 percent of Illinois voters opposed legalizing medical marijuana. Support for recreational marijuana is not as strong, according to the poll, but opinions are split nearly down the middle. 54 percent of Illinois voters oppose the legalization of recreational marijuana, while 45 percent say they support the move. Young Illinoisans most strongly supported legalizing both medical and recreational marijuana, while older voters tended to oppose the drug. Recreational Marijuana Is Still Illegal

Unless you are qualified for the state’s medical marijuana program, the possession, sale, and use of marijuana is still illegal in Illinois. While possessing a small amount of marijuana may result in a misdemeanor, most drug possession charges are considered felonies in Illinois and carry with them harsh consequences. If you are facing marijuana related charges, you need a qualified Chicago area criminal defense attorney by your side. Do not face fines, jail time, and drug treatment programs alone. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Hal M. Garfinkel LLC, Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney have years of experience defending clients from drug charges. Call 312-270-0999 today to schedule your free consultation with us to review your legal options.

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medical marijuana, Chicago Criminal Defense AttorneyWith the recent opening of a few medical marijuana dispensaries in Illinois, some concerned citizens and substance abuse experts are worried. Will more easily accessed pot lead to abuse by children and teens?

Some say yes, and argue that as public perceptions on the drug change, and more dispensaries open across the state, young people will be more inclined to find, consume, and abuse marijuana. Marijuana use and abuse can have serious, lasting impacts on children, so experts have reason to be concerned. As the drug becomes more readily available across the state, for medical use only, are Illinois youth at risk?

Young people are especially susceptible to the dangers of marijuana abuse. THC, the mind altering substance within marijuana, can be harmful to young, developing brains, and affects areas like memory, attention and learning. Teenagers are often more willing to engage in risky behavior, like drug use, because their prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain that controls impulses, is still developing. While consuming marijuana occasionally is unlikely to do any major damage, chronic use can lead to serious problems.

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medical marijuana dispensaries, Chicago Area Criminal Defense AttorneyFor those struggling with disease, chronic pain, and other conditions, the wait for medical marijuana in Illinois is over. On November 9, a few medical marijuana dispensaries opened their doors for business, with many more to follow in the near future. For both marijuana industry officials and patients seeking medicine, the stores opening is a huge relief and comes after years of advocating for medical marijuana legalization. For the first time in Illinois, patients who qualify are able to legally purchase and use medical marijuana as a form of treatment.

Six stores opened across Illinois on Monday, and a few others are scheduled to open within the week. Officials say they expect there to be 25 dispensaries opened by the end of 2015, with more to follow in the coming years. At the time of planning, state officials mapped out 60 potential sites for dispensaries, so many more stores may be opening as the industry grows. The six stores that opened Monday experienced long lines of patients, and industry officials are hoping even more patients will try the products once medical marijuana becomes more popular in the state.

Medical marijuana was officially legalized in Illinois in 2013; however, many setbacks forced the opening to be pushed back until late 2015. Illinois government officials feared lawsuits over medical marijuana, and therefore delayed giving licenses to marijuana growers and sellers. Lawsuits over the legalization of medical marijuana have been filed in Illinois, but none have won as of yet. Illinois is currently one of 23 states in the U.S. that has legalized medical marijuana, and marijuana industry leaders expect the trend to continue across the country. States like Colorado, Washington, and Oregon have legalized marijuana for recreational use by everyone 18 and older.

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medical marijuana, Illinois law, Chicago Criminal Defense AttorneyIt has been more than 21 months since the Illinois medical marijuana pilot program officially went into effect. However, the program, which was designed to provide insight into how the state and society would be affected by medicinal use of the drug, has yet to offer any type of usable data since dispensaries have not had any product to make legally available. The wait, it seems, is just about over. At least one grower is reportedly beginning to harvest the first legally-grown crop of marijuana in the state, and officials indicate that dispensaries around the state will soon be able to offer registered participants the opportunity to purchase it.

Licensed Growers Only

The measure officially legalizing the use of medicinal marijuana was signed into law on August 1, 2013, by then-Governor Pat Quinn. The Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act went into effect on January 1, 2014, and those with qualifying conditions began talking to their doctors about participating in the program. To date, more than 3,000 applications have been processed by the Department of Public Health, but due to bureaucratic delays and ongoing legal battles, production did not begin until earlier this spring.

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