Illinois: Poll Shows More Than 60% Support Removing Criminal Penalties for Marijuana Possession

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Supporters call on members of the House of Representatives to pass bills approved last week by the House Restorative Justice Committee that would replace criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana in Illinois with a non-criminal fine

Panel discussion on collateral sanctions of marijuana arrests to take place Friday at Roosevelt University

Supporters of a bill that would remove criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana in Illinois on Thursday released the results of a statewide poll showing strong support for such legislation. The Illinois House Restorative Justice Committee approved the bill last week, and supporters are now calling on members of the House to approve the proposal.

The Public Policy Polling survey shows 63 percent of Illinois voters support making possession of an ounce of marijuana a non-criminal offense punishable by a fine of up to $100. Only 27 percent oppose the proposal.

The poll found majority support across all reported genders, races, and political party affiliations. The survey, which polled 769 Illinois voters from March 28-30, is available at http://www.mpp.org/ILpoll.

HB 5708, introduced by Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago), would eliminate criminal penalties and the possibility of a criminal record for possession of up to 30 grams of marijuana. It would establish a new class of offense called a “regulatory offense,” which would prohibit arrest or jail time, limit fines to no more than $100, and require the ticket to be removed from a person’s record after the fine is paid, which would prevent individuals from losing employment and housing opportunities.

“Nobody should face potentially life-altering criminal penalties for possessing a small amount of marijuana, a substance less harmful than alcohol,” Rep. Cassidy said. “These devastating penalties are irrational and unjust. Our law enforcement officials’ time and resources would be better spent addressing serious crimes instead of marijuana possession cases.”

A new report, “Marked for Life: Collateral Sanctions in Illinois,” which details the impact of being arrested for a marijuana-related offense in Illinois, was also released at the press conference. A criminal record for marijuana possession can make it difficult to pursue one’s chosen profession, to get a job, or to even get housing.

Collateral consequences of marijuana arrests in Illinois will also be the subject of a panel discussion at the Fourth Annual Forum on Drug Policy, which will be held Friday at Roosevelt University. For details, visit http://bit.ly/1jlWPe8. The full report is available at http://www.mpp.org/ILMarkedForLife.

“Illinoisans are tired of seeing their tax dollars and limited law enforcement resources wasted on arresting and prosecuting marijuana users,” said Chris Lindsey, legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). “Lawmakers have a chance to do the right thing by listening to their constituents and supporting this sensible legislation.”