Friday, July 29, 2016

IL Gov Rauner OKs decriminalizing possession of small amounts of pot


SPRINGFIELD — Possession of small amounts of marijuana is now a civil offense across Illinois, punishable only by fines — not jail time.

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner signed legislation decriminalizing possession of small amounts of pot on Friday, after vetoing a bill last year that sought to allow slightly larger amounts.

Chicago has already joined more than 100 Illinois local governments in removing some criminal penalties for people caught with lesser amounts of marijuana.  But the new law extends decriminalization to the entire state.

Rauner's office announced the bill signing with no fanfare, including Senate Bill 2228, "An Act Concerning Criminal Law," in a list of 50 different House or Senate bills that the governor signed or vetoed on Friday.

With the governor's signature, the law takes effect immediately, meaning that possession of 10 grams or less of pot is now a civil, rather than a criminal violation. Fines will range from $100 to a maximum of $200.

Under the new law, courts are required to expunge records of the civil violations each year.

Illinois is now the 21st state to decriminalize possession of marijuana in small amounts, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The new law also addresses driving under the influence of pot, setting a scientific standard for the amount of marijuana's THC in the blood stream that would prompt an arrest.

The bill's chief sponsor, Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago, has argued that 98 percent of the more than 50,000 marijuana-related arrests in Illinois each year are for small amounts, intended for personal use.

Rauner's signing of the bill was expected. He signaled he was OK with the newer attempt at decriminalization in spring, saying "I'll probably be comfortable with it. I've got to see what's there."

Last year, the governor vetoed a bill to make possession of up to 15 grams of pot a ticketable offense, saying it would allow people to carry too much pot and that fines should be more than $55 to $125.

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