Illinois Decriminalizes Small Amounts of Marijuana

MarijuanaOn Friday, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner signed legislation into law which makes possession of small amounts of marijuana a civil matter and not a criminal matter.  This new law makes Illinois the 17th state to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana.  This means that if you are caught with the possession of 10 grams of marijuana or less, you will be issued a ticket charging you with a civil offense which carries a fine of up to $200.  However, individual towns are allowed to add additional penalties to the tickets, such as drug treatment or classes.  The new law also makes two more changes to Illinois law.  First, anyone charged under this new law will have the case expunged from their record automatically 6 months after the offense occurs. Expungements for these citations will happen automatically twice a year, January 1 and July 1.  This was added to the statute to make sure that such a case would not limit the ability of people, especially young people, to be able to obtain a job. The second change has to do with DUI’s. Under the old law, Illinois had a “no tolerance” policy when it came to driving a motor vehicle with the presence of any trace of marijuana in their blood system.Under the old law, if you had ingested marijuana a few weeks ago and were driving a motor vehicle, you could be charged with a DUI even if there were no signs of impairment.  Under the new law you cannot be charged with a DUI unless you have 5 nano-grams of THC (the active ingredient of marijuana) in your blood, or 10 nano-grams or more in your saliva.

This new law is pretty similar to a measure enacted in Chicago in 2012.  This measure allows police officers to issue tickets for possession of less than 15 grams of marijuana that carries fines of $250 to $500. The new law would not change what is happening in Chicago but would apply to any towns in Illinois that have no such measure so that there’s some uniformity in Illinois.

Similar legislation was passed last year.  But when it reached Rauner’s desk, he vetoed the legislation because he believed that it allowed for the possession of too much marijuana and the fines were too low. The legislature amended the legislation to satisfy Governor Rauner’s objections and he signed the bill on Friday. This measure goes into immediate effect in Illinois.

The possession of more than 10 grams of marijuana is still a crime in Illinois.  Under previous law, possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana was a Class B misdemeanor which carries a maximum punishment of 180 days in jail and a fine up to $1,500.  Possession of less than 10 grams is now covered by the new law which makes it a civil offense.  If you are caught with more than 10 grams but less than 30 grams of marijuana, you could be facing a Class A misdemeanor which carries a maximum penalty of to one year in jail and a fine up to $2,500.  A second such conviction is a Class 4 Felony.  If you are caught with more than 30 grams of marijuana but less than 500 grams, you could be facing a Class 4 felony which carries a maximum penalty of 1 to 3 years in prison with probation a possibility.  If you are caught with more than 500 grams of marijuana but less than 2000 grams, you could be facing a Class 3 felony which carries a maximum penalty of 2 to 5 years in prison with probation a possibility.  If you are caught with more than 2000 grams of marijuana but less than 5000 grams, you could be facing a Class 2 felony which carries a maximum penalty of 3 to 7 years in prison with probation a possibility.  If you are caught with more than 5000 grams of marijuana you could be facing a Class 1 felony which carries a maximum penalty of 4 to 15 years in prison with probation a possibility.

James Dimeas is an award winning Chicago criminal defense attorney and author with more than 23 years of experience aggressively representing his clients against marijuana charges.  If you have a marijuana case in Illinois, contact me in Chicago (312-229-5500), DuPage and Kane (630-504-2096) or Lake (847-696-6458) for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your legal options.

Additional Resources:

Illinois Cannabis Control Act, 720 ILCS 550/4.