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Illinois: Senate Approves Marijuana Decriminalization Bill

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

The Illinois Senate voted Tuesday 40 to 14 in favor of a bill that would decriminalize simple possession of marijuana, replacing a punishment of jail time with a small fine.

“We need to replace Illinois’s current patchwork of marijuana possession laws with a consistent standard that will be applied fairly across the state,” Senator Heather Steans, the bill’s primary sponsor, told HIGH TIMES in an e-mailed statement. “People should not be sent to jail for an offense that would have been punishable by a small fine if it had occurred a few miles down the road. It’s irrational, it’s unpredictable, and it’s unjust.”

Senate Bill 2228 introduces legislation that will impose a fine of $100-$200 on anyone caught with 10 grams of marijuana or less.Currently, any person caught with 10 grams of pot can be arrested and charged with a criminal misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,500 fine.

In addition, the bill comes with a provision that eliminates the state's zero-tolerance policy for stoned driving. Under current law, a person is at risk of getting a DUI for any amount of THC in the blood, even if it is residual from use days before.

The new bill establishes a legal limit of 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood or 10 nanograms of THC in saliva.

Illinois: First Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Open

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Illinois’ first medical marijuana dispensaries have opened across the state, with five opening on Monday, including locations in Addison, Canton, Marion, Mundelein, and Quincy.

So far, a total of eight shops are approved by the Illinois Department of Public Health with seven more dispensaries expected to open later this month, bringing the total number of medical marijuana dispensaries operating in Illinois to 15. In order to be protected under state law, Illinois patients must obtain their medical marijuana from one of these licensed dispensaries.

“This is a great day for suffering patients who have been waiting to have access to this medicine,” said Chris Lindsey, a legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). “We are grateful they will no longer have to put themselves at risk by purchasing it in an underground market.” Under the Illinois Medical Cannabis Pilot Program (MCPP), patients must register and select one designated dispensary as their source of medicine. According to the Department of Public Health, 3,300 patients have registered for the medical cannabis identification cards.

“The dispensary openings mark the most significant milestone since the pilot program began nearly two and half years ago,” said Lindsey. “A limited number of patients with certain conditions will now be able to legally access medical marijuana. We hope the state can see that a program like this works and we can finally relieve the suffering of Illinois’ most vulnerable citizens.”

Illinois: Governor's Amendatory Veto Sends Pot Decrim Bill Back To Assembly For Final Approval

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Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner on Friday issued an amendatory veto of a bill that would remove criminal penalties for possession of small amount of marijuana, sending it back to the General Assembly for final approval.

The General Assembly has 15 days from the next session date to approve the amended version of HB 218, which needs to receive a simple majority vote in the House and then the Senate to officially become law. The original version, introduced by Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago), was approved in the Senate (37-19) on May 21 and in the House (62-53) on April 23.

Gov. Rauner’s amended version of HB 218 would make possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana a civil law violation punishable by a fine of up to $200 with no possibility of jail time, and the civil offense would be automatically expunged in order to prevent a permanent criminal record. The original version applied to possession of up to 15 grams of marijuana and set the amount of the fine at up to $125.

Under current Illinois law, possession of 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, and possession of more than 2.5 grams and up to 10 grams is a class B misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,500. More than 100 localities in Illinois have adopted measures that reduce penalties for simple marijuana possession.

Illinois: Senate Approves Bill To Remove Criminal Penalties For Marijuana Possession

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Measure Will Be Sent to Gov. Bruce Rauner for His Signature

HB 218 replaces the threat of jail time and a criminal record with a civil penalty — a $125 fine, similar to a traffic ticket — for possession of a small amount of marijuana

The Illinois Senate on Thursday approved a bill 37-19 to remove criminal penalties for possession of a small amount of marijuana. The measure, which was approved by the House of Representatives in April, will now be sent to Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner 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 time in jail, and the civil offense will be automatically expunged in order 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.”

U.S.: Senator John Walsh Offers Protections for Medical Marijuana Patient Gun Rights

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Amendment to Senate Appropriations Bill would deny funds to the ATF for enforcing ban on gun rights for medical marijuana patients

Sen. John Walsh (D-Montana) has offered an amendment to Senate appropriations bill S. 2347, which would prevent the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) from targeting state-legal medical marijuana patients for possessing firearms.

“Montanans take their Second Amendment rights very seriously and hunting is an important part of our heritage and culture,” said Chris Lindsey, legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). "Whether firearms are used for sport or to help sustain a family by putting food on the table, the federal government should not prevent Montanans from owning firearms simply because a hunter benefits from access to medical marijuana."

In 2011, the ATF issued a letter entitled “Open Letter to All Federal Firearms Licensees” which told licensees that according to Title 18, Section 922 of the United States Code, licensees are not allowed under to sell ammunition or firearms to individuals who use marijuana, even if the person uses it in compliance with state medical marijuana laws.

“We are pleased Sen. Walsh is sending a strong message to the federal government on behalf of Montanans: Stay away from the gun rights of our law-abiding citizens,” said Lindsey. “Marijuana is less harmful than alcohol and many prescription drugs, yet the federal government seems to have a persistent case of reefer madness.

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