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Despite decriminalization efforts, penalties still harsh for marijuana possession

As we discussed in a recent post, patients with certain medical conditions and a doctor's recommendation can register for medical marijuana through the Illinois Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program. State law allows a patient with a qualifying condition to possess up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis per 14-day period.

However, Illinois does not yet have objective standards for determining when a person who uses medical marijuana isn't sober enough to drive, and under certain circumstances a medical marijuana user could be charged with impaired driving. Additionally, a registered cannabis user could face serious legal consequences for growing any amount of marijuana or possessing more than the allotted 2.5 ounces.

As in other states, marijuana possession is still a crime in Illinois, although reform advocates continue to push for decriminalization. Until that happens, if you're charged with misdemeanor possession of 2.5 grams or less, then you face the possibility of up to 30 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,500.

The penalties increase as the amount of marijuana increases and when a person is convicted of a subsequent offense. For example, a second offense of possessing between 10 and 30 grams of marijuana is a felony punishable by a mandatory sentence of one to six years in jail and a fine of up to $25,000.

In other words, and despite ongoing efforts to decriminalize cannabis, the stakes are still very high in marijuana cases, and anyone accused of a marijuana crime should talk to a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible.

If you have been accused of any kind of drug offense, remember that a criminal charge does not automatically lead to a conviction. The prosecution must establish an evidentiary connection between the accused and the drug in question, and like everyone else, police and prosecutors make mistakes. A defense attorney can uncover any such flaws and fight to protect your rights and freedom.

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