Illinois Senate Votes to Decriminalize Marijuana Possession

Under the legislation, people caught with up to 10 grams of marijuana would receive a fine

The Illinois Senate approved a measure Tuesday to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana in the state.

Under the legislation, people caught with up to 10 grams of marijuana would be fined $100 to $200 for the possession instead of facing jail time. This is a somewhat drastic change from the state’s current law.

“Under current Illinois law, possession of up to 2.5 grams of marijuana is a class C misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,500; possession of 2.5-10 grams is a class B misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,500,” a release from the Marijuana Policy Project said.

Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed a similar measure last year, arguing that it would allow people to carry too much marijuana and would not administer large enough fines.

That bill would have allowed up to 15 grams of marijuana with fines ranging from $55 to $125.

Some Republican lawmakers voiced concerns about the decriminalization, arguing that the amount was still too large and that the bill would encourage drug use. Nevertheless, Rauner’s office was positive about the new legislation.

“We are encouraged to see the General Assembly on a path to accept the Governor's changes, and will continue monitoring the legislation as it moves forward,” Rauner spokeswoman Catherine Kelly said in a statement.

Under the legislation, individual towns could levy additional fines and other penalties, like drug treatment. Citations stemming from marijuana possession would be automatically expunged twice yearly, on Jan. 1 and July 1.

In addition to this, the measure would also relax Illinois’ zero-tolerance policy for driving under the influence. Drivers can currently be charged if any trace of the drug is detected in their system, even if it was taken weeks before and the driver is not impaired.

According to the new legislation, drivers would only be charged with a DUI if they have 5 nanograms of THC in their bloodstream or 10 nanograms in their saliva. THC is the active ingredient in marijuana.

The measure passed the Illinois Senate 40-14 and will now be sent to the House.

Over 100 Illinois communities have already moved to decriminalize simple marijuana possession. 20 states and the District of Columbia have also removed criminal penalties for simple marijuana possession, according to the Marijuana Policy Project.

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