New Illinois Law: No Jail Time For Small Marijuana Possession

| by Robert Fowler
A jar of Indica-strain marijuanaA jar of Indica-strain marijuana

Illinois residents caught with a modest amount of marijuana can now expect only to pay up to a $200 fine instead of facing jail time and a criminal record.

On July 29, Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner of Illinois signed SB 2228, legislation that deems possession of 10 or fewer grams of marijuana is only punishable by a fine ranging from $100 to $200.

The bill had been introduced by Democratic State Sen. Heather Steans of Illinois. The legislation was successfully signed into law after Steans included provisions that Gov. Rauner had asked for after he vetoed a similar bill in 2015, according to WLS.

Rauner had disapproved of the previous bill, which set the threshold at 15 grams of marijuana and the fine from $55 to $125, but invited Illinois lawmakers to submit legislation that would lower the threshold and raise the fine.

The new law demotes marijuana possession of up to 10 grams from a criminal offense to a civil offense, meaning that offenders will not be given jail time and will not have the possession permanently placed on their criminal record.

Before SB 2228, simply possessing 2.5 or fewer grams of marijuana could result in 30 days in jail as well as a fine of up to $1,500. Possessing more than 2.5 grams could have resulted in up to six months in prison.

The new law also establishes a new marijuana intoxication (THC) limit for getting behind the wheel.

While Illinois previously showed zero-tolerance for driving while under the influence of marijuana, the new limit will be 5 nanograms of THC in the bloodstream, according to WMAQ.

Following the bill’s passage, Illinois has become the 21st state in the U.S. to decriminalize simple marijuana possession.

Senior legislative counsel Chris Lindsey of the Marijuana Policy Project released a statement praising the new law.

“We applaud Gov. Rauner and the legislature for replacing Illinois’s needlessly Draconian marijuana possession law with a much more sensible policy … Serious criminal penalties should be reserved for people who commit serious crimes, not low-level marijuana offenses,” Lindsey said.

Democratic Mayor of Chicago Rahm Emanuel also released a statement commending SB 2228, asserting that it would have a positive and far-reaching impact.

“This common-sense measure helps law enforcement reallocate resources toward fighting violent crime, saves taxpayer dollars through reduced incarceration, and removes barriers to employment for low-level drug offenders,” Emanuel said.

Police Chief Laimutis Nargelenas of the Springfield Park District of Illinois expressed concern over the legislation, particularly how it could impact driving across the state, according to The Associated Press.

“You’re giving individuals more opportunity for drug usage,” Nargelenas said.

Sources: WLS, AP via Herald & Review, WMAQ / Photo credit: Dank Depot/Flickr

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