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Legislation may change marijuana penalties

The Illinois House of Representatives is dealing with legislation that has passed the state Senate and that could change the way individuals found in possession of small amounts of marijuana are charged. The current law treats possession of up to 2.5 grams as a class C crime at the misdemeanor level, which can result in a $1,500 fine as well as a maximum of 30 days in jail. Possession of between 2.5 and 10 grams is a class B crime at present and can result in a similar fine as well as a maximum of one year in jail.

At least 100 communities within the state have taken action to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, and several other states as well as the District of Columbia have taken similar steps. Those promoting the Illinois legislation suggest that marijuana is less dangerous than alcohol and does not warrant a criminal record.

Various concerns have caused the issue of marijuana-related drug charges to be considered. With the laws in various states changing, an individual could inadvertently cross state lines while in possession of a quantity of marijuana that is permissible in one state and not in the next. In other cases, individuals charged with possession might wonder if pending legislation could affect their own legal outcomes. However, the current law would typically govern one's case as pending changes must be approved at various levels before becoming effective. Furthermore, legislative action might not allow for retroactive changes to charges filed in the past.

An individual dealing with a drug case might find legal representation to be important if there is the potential of having criminal charges dropped. A lawyer might negotiate an agreement with the prosecutor for a defendant with a clean record or for one who is willing to attend drug counseling classes.

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