Earlier this year, both the Senate and House passed a decriminalization bill in Illinois – similar to one that had previously fallen short, but with all the changes requested by the state’s Governor. Changes were made to the fines that would be associated with marijuana possession – going up from under $100 to starting at $100 and ranging up to $200, and reducing the amount that would qualify for possession as well from 15 grams to 10 grams. With these changes, it was assumed that Governor Rauner would happily sign the bill if it made it to his desk.
That bill has now been sitting on his desk since June 16th and from that day, he only has sixty days to sign it into law. The main sponsor on the bill, Heather Steans, says that the Rauner Administration has assured her that he will sign the bill and that the delay is only in order to give law enforcement time to prepare for this change from arrest to fines. Of course, this is politics – and Rauner’s spokeswoman has said that they are still reviewing the bill officially.
“Part of the review process is working with the Illinois State Police to ensure that the law can be implemented in the best interests of the public,” Rauner spokeswoman Catherine Kelly said. The state police declined to comment.
As always, lawmakers are never able to fully please everyone involved. One of the biggest concerns with the new laws is that of concerned parents. The decriminalization would not differentiate between minors and adults – meaning teens would be cited in the same way adults would. For some parents this is a scary thought – if their teen is caught with marijuana, they feel they ought to be informed and with a simple citation, teenagers would have a much easier time hiding it (probably just as easy as hiding a traffic ticket).
While this is definitely a legitimate concern, parents should at least be happy knowing that their teen will not be arrested. A clean record is important, and that is the main goal behind decriminalization laws – and it’s hard to make this a win-win situation for everyone involved. Which brings us to the other big concern with the decriminalization laws passed in Illinois – they would make new regulations surrounding what is considered driving while under the influence of marijuana.
Present law determines that any trace of marijuana is enough to be slapped with a DUI – we all know this is unfair as cannabis has a tendency to hang around in your system for at least a few weeks after you’ve last consumed it. The original writing of this law would have considered 15 nanograms of THC in the driver’s blood to be intoxicated – and Rauner suggested only 5 nanograms (which likely wouldn’t be much to someone who uses marijuana regularly). It seems these are the issues they are trying to work out before the bill is signed and Illinois officially becomes the 17th state to decriminalize marijuana possession.