Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a bill into law last Friday that eliminates criminal penalties for possession of a personal amount of marijuana and instead replace them with a civil fine. The new law is to begin effective immediately.
SB 2228, introduced by Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago), allows possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana to be just a civil violation punishable by a fine of $100-$200. With its establishment, adults can no longer face potential jail time, and the civil offense will be automatically expunged in order to further prevent a permanent criminal record.
The new law largely resembles legislation introduced in the House by Rep. Kelly Cassidy, who also sponsored and endorsed this year’s bill, and reflects amendments Gov. Bruce Rauner proposed when he vetoed a similar bill last year.
At one time in Illinois, possession of up to 2.5 grams of marijuana was considered a class C misdemeanor that was punishable by up to 30 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,500; possession of 2.5-10 grams was considered a class B misdemeanor and punishable by up to six months in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,500. More than 100 Illinois communities had already removed local criminal penalties for simple marijuana possession.
Illinois is now officially the 21st state in the nation, in addition to the District of Columbia, to get rid the risk of jail time for something as simple marijuana possession.
“We applaud Gov. Rauner and the legislature for replacing Illinois’s needlessly draconian marijuana possession law with a much more sensible policy,” said Chris Lindsey, senior legislative counsel for the Marijuana Policy Project, which lobbied in support of the bill. “This commonsense legislation will prevent countless citizens from having their lives turned upside down by a marijuana possession arrest.”
“Nobody should face a lifelong criminal record and potential jail time for possessing a substance that is safer than alcohol. Serious criminal penalties should be reserved for people who commit serious crimes, not low-level marijuana offenses,” Lindsey added.
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