Illinois: House Passes Marijuana Decriminalization Bill
By Derrick Stanley
The Illinois House voted today, May 18, to make possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana a ticket-based penalty rather than a misdemeanor.
Previously, anyone caught with 10 grams of marijuana or less could have faced a fine up to $1,500 and a possible six month stay in jail. If the governor signs Senate Bill 2228, police will start issuing tickets ranging from $100 to $200 per offense instead of arresting offenders.
Moving simple marijuana possession to a civil penalty from a criminal penalty will help achieve Go. Bruce Rauner's goal of reducing the state's prison population by 25 percent by 2025.
Another positive outcome is that a civil penalty for possession will not burden people with a debilitating criminal record, which can prevent a person from getting a job, applying for student loans, or finding a place to live.
The change will also save the state money. Jailing people for low-level possession offenses is expensive, costing Illinois $38,000 a year per prisoner. Illinois prisons are currently operating at 150 percent capacity.
Reforming the way simple marijuana possession is punished will allow police to focus on serious crime, while ensuring that people caught with small amounts of pot don't get ensnared in a costly and ineffective system.