Illinois Senate approves bill to decriminalize simple marijuana - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Illinois Senate approves bill to decriminalize simple marijuana possession

(Source: AP) (Source: AP)
SPRINGFIELD, IL (KFVS) - The Illinois Senate approved a bill 37-19 Thursday to remove criminal penalties for possessing a small amount of marijuana. 

The measure was approved by the House of Representatives in April, and will now be sent to Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) for his signature.

HB 218, introduced in the Senate by Sen. Michael Noland (D-Elgin) and in the House by Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago), makes possession of up to 15 grams of marijuana a civil law violation, punishable by a $125 fine. 

Individuals will no longer face jail time, and the offense will be automatically expunged to prevent a permanent criminal record.

“Serious criminal penalties should be reserved for individuals who commit serious crimes,” Rep. Cassidy said. “The possibility of jail time should not even be on the table when it comes to simple marijuana possession. Criminalizing people for marijuana possession is not a good use of our state's limited law enforcement resources.”

Under current state law, possessing up to 2.5 grams of marijuana is a class C misdemeanor, punishable by up to 30 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,500; possession of 2.5-10 grams is a class B misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,500; and possession of 10-30 grams is a class 4 felony punishable by up to one year in jail and/or a $1,500 fine. 

More than 100 localities in Illinois have adopted measures that decriminalize simple marijuana possession.

“This legislation is long overdue in Illinois,” said Rev. Alexander Sharp, executive director of Clergy for a New Drug Policy. “Simple marijuana possession does not warrant harsh criminal penalties that can turn someone's life upside down. Laws should protect people, not cause more harm to them than the activity they're intended to prevent.”

Nineteen other states and Washington, D.C. have already removed the threat of jail time for possessing marijuana.

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