By Mark Wachtler
July 9, 2015. Springfield, IL. (ONN) Over a month ago, the Illinois Legislature passed a marijuana decriminalization law. Three weeks ago, the Bill was sent to the desk of Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner for his signature. At the time, the Governor’s spokespeople said he was undecided on the issue and did not know if he would veto it or sign it into law. But there’s a third option that could create a win-win for the Governor. If Rauner fails to do anything, neither signing nor vetoing it, the Bill will automatically become law after 60 days without his having to officially take a position.
The state of marijuana laws around the US. Image courtesy of Marijuana Policy News.
HB 218 - marijuana decriminalization
Begin the countdown to August 18th. That’s when HB 218 - the Illinois marijuana decriminalization Bill - will automatically become law, baring a veto by Governor Bruce Rauner. The law would add Illinois to the ever-growing list of nearly two dozen states that have decriminalized cannabis. Similar to most of them, the Illinois law would make possession of up to 15 grams or less of marijuana a ticketed offense instead of a criminal offense punishable by jail time. The law also insists the fine can’t be more than $125. Possession of more than 15 grams would still be considered a misdemeanor criminal offense.
Opponents of the Bill argue that if signed into law, it would encourage marijuana use, increase incidents of driving under the influence, and lead to more drug addicts. But supporters of the legislation argue that cash-strapped police departments and court systems are wasting valuable time, money and resources attempting to prosecute offenders arrested for possession of small amounts of pot. They cite the statistic that more than 90 percent of marijuana arrests in Illinois are thrown out or dismissed in court. And our jails are filled with poor marijuana arrestees who can’t afford bail and who are taking a cell that could be used to house an actual violent criminal.
Currently in the city of Chicago and roughly 100 other Illinois towns, the law puts the authority in the hands of individual police officers. They have the responsibility of deciding whether to charge people caught with small amounts of marijuana as misdemeanor crimes or non-criminal ticketed offenses. As we documented here at the Illinois Herald last summer, the Chicago Police have virtually ignored the new Chicago ordinance and have charged 93 percent of individuals with criminal possession rather than a ticket. Read ‘Chicago PD ignoring Marijuana Decriminalization Law’ for details.
The Illinois Marijuana Decriminalization Bill currently on the Governor’s desk was passed in the Illinois State Senate by a vote of 37-19. 5 Republican State Senators voted with Democrats for decriminalization, while 4 Democrats voted with Republicans to oppose the law. In the Illinois House, the Bill passed by a much closer margin of 62-53. View the full Roll Call vote compliments of the Illinois Review. If Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner doesn’t sign or veto the Bill by August 18th, it will automatically become law.
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