Illinois Lawmakers Reform the State’s Approach to Marijuana Policy

Published: Sep 27, 2016, by admin in Criminal Defense, Drug Crimes, Legal Blog

On July 29, 2016, Illinois became the 17th state in the nation to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana. Senate Bill 2228, which went into effect immediately, makes it a civil offense—like a traffic ticket—to possess any amount of marijuana under 10 grams. There is no possibility of jail time for this offense, and the fines range from $100 to $200.

Illinois Lawmakers Reform the State’s Approach to Marijuana Policy

The new law comes after several Illinois cities and municipalities decriminalized marijuana, starting with Chicago in 2012. Senate Bill 2228 will not override older municipal ordinances that decriminalize marijuana, so the fines for possessing marijuana may be different in different parts of the state.

Senate Bill 2228 does more than decriminalize marijuana—it puts in place several reforms that will lessen the burdens on the state’s marijuana users. For one, a conviction for the civil offense of marijuana possession automatically gets expunged after 6 months. This means that the drug offense will be invisible to potential employers who perform background checks.

These reforms aren’t just good for marijuana users—they’re good for the finances of the state of Illinois. According to an Illinois Sentencing Policy Advisory Council financial impact analysis, Senate Bill 2228 will save the state an estimated $24 million over three years from the reduced cost of incarcerating marijuana offenders and the increased revenue from the fines.

The new policy is in line with Governor Rauner’s plan to reduce Illinois’s prison population by a quarter over the next ten years. Under the old legal framework, the possession of 10 grams of marijuana was punishable by up to 6 months in jail. That meant that the state would have to spend money on housing and feeding marijuana offenders in detention instead of just collecting a fine.

Illinois is No Longer a Zero Tolerance State for DUI Cases Involving Marijuana

The new law also changes the state’s approach to DUI cases involving marijuana impairment. Previously a “zero tolerance” state on weed and driving, Illinois will now allow people to drive a vehicle so long as their blood concentration of THC does not exceed 5 nanograms. Illinois drivers no longer need to fear a DUI charge for smoking a joint a week before getting pulled over.

There is no scientific consensus on what blood concentration of THC correlates with impairment, so the new THC limit is arbitrary. Nonetheless, the small margin of safety is welcome news to marijuana users—especially medical marijuana patients who may need to medicate daily to treat their illness.

While Senate Bill 2228 is a step in one direction, marijuana users in Illinois may still face criminal charges. When a blood test show’s that a driver’s THC level is over the limit, he or she will face DUI charges. Individuals who get caught with less than 10 grams of marijuana along with a scale or baggies may still get charged with drug dealing.

In such cases, you can count on the dedication of O’Meara Law LLC. Our goal is to give each and every one of our clients the best prospects possible as they face the Illinois criminal justice system. If you’re a marijuana user facing criminal charges, call us today at 312-909-0706 for a free and confidential consultation of your case.