Light Up: Illinois Becomes 21st State To Decriminalize Marijuana

We’re getting there people, slowly (far too slowly actually), but we are getting there. On Friday, Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner signed legislation that makes possession of small amounts of marijuana a civil offense and not a criminal offense in the great state of Illinois. The new law that is effective immediately means that those who are caught with 10 grams or less of weed can only be punished with fines of $100 to $200 instead of serving any jail time. In addition, the offense can not be put on an individual’s permanent criminal record, which means that it won’t affect a person from getting a job.

Illinois Policy details what the harsh punishments to weed were before the bill was passed. Prior to the signing of SB 2228, the Cannabis Control Act made possession of up to 2.5 grams of marijuana a Class C misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail. Possession of 2.5 to 10 grams was a Class B misdemeanor under the act, and punishable by up to six months in jail.

The new law also addresses driving under the influence of weed. Previously, Illinois had a zero-tolerance stance that stated that if a motorist had any THC in their bloodstream they would be arrested. The new law states that it is illegal to operate a vehicle with 5 nanograms of THC in a driver’s blood within two hours of consumption. This is important because the THC from marijuana can stay in a person’s system for several weeks.

Illinois is now the 21st state to decriminalize possession of marijuana in small amounts.

Senate Bill 2228 was introduced by Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago. She has argued that 98 percent of the more than 50,000 marijuana-related arrests in Illinois each year are for small amounts, intended for personal use.

“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. “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.”

This is a great baby step, now let’s just legalize it in the entire nation.