Illinois has something to feel high about. On July 29, 2016, Illinois became the 21st state to decriminalize marijuana possession. That means residents don’t have to worry about facing jail time if caught with a small amount of marijuana.
Possession of more than 30 grams of cannabis is considered a felony offense and can end in a prison sentence, Illinois-based criminal defense attorneys from Noll Law Office explain. Under the new law, possession of 10 grams or less is a civil offense, resulting in a $100-200 fine, with no possibility of jail time and blotched criminal record.
The new policy also changes the state’s approach to DIU cases involving marijuana impairment. No longer a zero-tolerance state on “smoking and driving,” Illinois now allows drivers with a THC blood concentration of 5 nanograms or less.
Why People Are Smiling
While some say the fine is still a little steep, others are feeling optimistic. Previous fines and consequences were much more severe. If imprisonment wasn’t bad enough, violators found it difficult to find work again after being released. Today, getting caught with 10 grams of marijuana resembles a traffic violation.
The good news extends to the state finances. According to a financial impact analysis, the new policy will save Illinois more than $20 million over the next three years from the increased revenue from the fines and reduced cost of incarceration.
Chicago: Ahead of the Trend
The new law comes after a few cities and municipalities decriminalized marijuana. Chicago went ahead in 2012 without the approval from the rest of Illinois, recognizing the disadvantages of incarcerating citizens for such minor infractions. Unfortunately, in cities like Chicago, the $100-200 fine doesn’t apply. They’ll continue to follow the rules already laid out.
The new policy on marijuana, Senate Bill 2228, agrees with Governor Bruce Rauner’s plan to reduce the state’s prison population by 25% over the next 10 years. Collecting a $200 fine would be more cost-effective than feeding and housing marijuana offenders.
Overall, it has been a good year for Illinois residents. No more criminal penalties for small amounts of marijuana, and hopefully more improvements in the medical marijuana program in the future.