DEA Rejects Request to Reclassify Marijuana

MarijuanaOn July 27 we reported that the DEA was considering reclassifying marijuana from a Class 1 Drug to something less.  Advocates for the legalization of marijuana were looking at this possibility as an important step to the possible legalization of marijuana.  On Wednesday the DEA made it’s decision public, and the decision did not make marijuana legalization advocates happy.  The DEA decided to keep marijuana in Class 1, which is the most serious classification of illegal drugs.  But what is especially troubling was the reason given by the DEA for denying the application to remove marijuana from the Class 1 category.  The DEA found that there is no accepted medical benefit for the use of marijuana and that it is highly vulnerable to abuse.  The DEA found that marijuana is not a safe and effective medicine.  This decision flies in the face of 42 states, and the District of Columbia, which allow for some form of medical marijuana use.

Today, sources are reporting that as early as today, the Obama Administration will issue new regulations which will make it easier for researchers to obtain the marijuana needed to conduct medical research. Currently, marijuana grown at the University of Mississippi has been the only source of medical marijuana available to medical researchers.  Currently, in order to obtain permission from the federal government to grow marijuana for medical research purposes, the process is so restrictive that it could take years to obtain it and is virtually impossible to get.  The new regulations will make it much easier to obtain permission to grow a supply of research grade marijuana.  The details are unclear but people who have seen the regulations believe that these changes could signal a major step towards the eventual legalization of marijuana.

Recently, Illinois has joined a growing group of states that are moving towards a more accepting treatment of marijuana.  Illinois allows for the use of Medical Marijuana.  The Illinois Legislature has accepted that there are medical benefits to the use of marijuana and they have set up a highly regulated process by which people who suffer from certain medical conditions can legally buy, possess and use medical marijuana as long as they have a valid prescription and obtain permission from the State of Illinois.  While the Illinois medical marijuana program is one of the most strict in the country, it is the product of a long and difficult fight in Springfield that took many twists and turns.

On July 29, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner signed a bill into law which decriminalizes the possession of small amounts of marijuana in Illinois.  The possession of 10 grams or less of marijuana will no longer be considered a crime in Illinois.  Instead of arresting people and taking them to Court, police will now issue a ticket that will impose fines of up to $200.  However, individual towns will be allowed to add additional penalties on top of the $200 fine imposed under state law.  Some towns in Illinois have already passed laws which did the same thing.  For instance, in 2012, Chicago passed a municipal ordinance which allowed police to issue tickets for possession of less than 15 grams of marijuana that carry fines of between $250 to $500. This new law does not change this Chicago ordinance.  It only applies to towns that have not imposed any such law.  In addition, this new law removes the previous “no tolerance” position of the law in Illinois which made it a DUI to operate a motor vehicle with any trace of marijuana in your system.  Now, a driver has to have a certain amount of marijuana in their system to be found guilty of a DUI.

The law decriminalizing 10 grams and less of marijuana takes effect immediately in Illinois.  The law which allows for medical marijuana in Illinois is set to expire on January 1, 2018, unless it is reauthorized by the Illinois legislature and signed into law by the Governor.

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:

DEA Rejects Attempt to Loosen Federal Restrictions on Marijuana, National Public Radio, Carrie Johnson, August 10, 2016.

Obama Administration Set to Remove Barrier to Marijuana ResearchCatherine Saint Louis and Matt Apuzzo, The New York Times, August 10, 2016.

Illinois Decriminalizes Small Amounts of Marijuana, James G. Dimeas, Chicago Criminal Defense Lawyers Blog, July 31, 2016.

Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act, 410 ILCS 130/1.

More Blog Posts:

Illinois Decriminalizes Small Amounts of Marijuana.  July 31, 2016.

DEA Considering Reclassifying Marijuana.  July 27, 2016.