Illinois marijuana decriminalization bill stalls

Despite a bill that went through the Illinois legislature in May, marijuana possession is still a crime in the state for now.

In many states across the country, marijuana has been approved for medical use. A few states, such as Colorado, have legalized marijuana for recreational purposes. Other states are enacting laws to reduce or eliminate the criminal aspect of smoking pot, instead treating possession as a minor offense. Lawmakers in Illinois have recently attempted to follow this trend by introducing a bill to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana.

Did the bill pass?

A new measure that was initially passed by the legislature last May aimed to decriminalize the possession of marijuana in small amounts, stated the Chicago Tribune. Instead of being arrested, those caught with 15 grams or less of pot would face a small fine of up to $125 - a penalty that proponents of the bill said would be like a traffic ticket instead of a criminal offense.

Unfortunately for those who were hoping to see change in the state's marijuana laws, the measure did not ultimately go through, and Illinois residents may still be charged with a crime for using marijuana. According to the Rockford Register Star, Governor Rauner was mostly approving of the bill but had several changes in mind. He wanted the maximum allowable amount of marijuana slightly decreased and the fines increased. He also wanted testing standards for driving under the influence of marijuana to be toughened. The deadline to sign the bill into law passed before these changes could be agreed upon. However, similar legislation may be reintroduced, so marijuana decriminalization in Illinois may just be a matter of time.

Marijuana penalties in Illinois

Marijuana proponents should keep in mind that there are certain legal restrictions to using medical marijuana. According to NORML, those who use marijuana for non-medical purposes face the following penalties under current Illinois law:

• A misdemeanor charge for possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana, up to six months in jail and a maximum $1,500 fine

• Felony charges for a subsequent offense, one to six years in prison and up to a $25,000 fine

• Significantly higher penalties for further convictions or for possessing pot in larger amounts

Decriminalizing may spare lives from being ruined

One of those who sponsored the measure gave his opinion on why he felt the proposed bill was a positive step forward. He said he doesn't believe people should use marijuana for recreational purposes, but that he also thinks they shouldn't have their lives ruined because of it. For example, young people are known for following the crowd and experimenting with marijuana. A drug charge early in life can have serious consequences for years and continue to affect a person even if he or she no longer uses marijuana.

Those who are facing marijuana charges have the right to be treated fairly by the court. It can help to get in touch with an experienced criminal defense attorney.