Illinois Becomes the 21st State to Decriminalize Marijuana
On July 29, Illinois State Gov. Bruce Rauner signed SB 2228, which removed criminal penalties for those found in possession of 10 grams or less of marijuana. The passing of this bill makes Illinois the 21st state to decriminalize marijuana.
This bill also protects against the penalty remaining on criminal record after one year. Additionally, law enforcement may no longer arrest someone in possession of 10 grams or less of marijuana. And their possession does not result in a criminal record.
The penalty for being in possession of 10 grams or less of marijuana is a minimal fine of $100 and a maximum fine of $200.
Those sponsoring the bill said Illinois could expect many positive changes as a result of the bill’s passing. For example, bill sponsors stated that if the law is passed, there would be approximately 115 fewer inmates in the state.
This bill will also make marijuana laws across the state of Illinois uniform. Until now, the marijuana laws in Illinois varied considerably from city to city. For example, in the city of Aurora, if someone is in possession of up to 30 grams of marijuana, the penalty would be anywhere from $500 to $1,500. But in Chicago, if someone possessed 15 grams of marijuana the fine could be anywhere from $250 to $500. This bill will make the law uniform across the state instead of varying from city to city.
The DUI law also changed. Now the possibility of a conviction based on metabolized forms of THC, unrelated to impairment are eliminated.
Gov. Bruce Rauner also signed SB 10 which extends the medical cannabis pilot program to at least July 2020. Illinois medical cannabis program also added post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to the list of qualifying medical conditions. SB 10 also changes requirements related to medical marijuana recommendations, which should make it easier for medical marijuana patients to work with doctors.
This bill also makes participation in the medical cannabis program easier. Up to this point, those participating in the Illinois medical marijuana pilot program have experienced much difficulty. Cultivators have been faced with high costs. There have been many delays in the program roll-out. And doctors and patients have had to deal with tight restrictions that make participation difficult. This bill should make it easier for patients to enroll in the program. And this bill should make it easier for patients to get support from doctors. While there is still plenty of room for improvement, the passing of this bill is a step in the right direction.
Dan Linn, executive director of the Illinois chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said that compared other states, Illinois has proposed relatively moderate policies. Linn, along with other medical marijuana supporters, is optimistic about the bill being passed.
Overall, 2016 has been a positive year for medical marijuana supporters in Illinois and the Illinois medical cannabis program. Criminal penalties for possession of 15 grams or less are now eliminated. And the medical marijuana program continues to improve and grow.