The Illinois House voted on Wednesday to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana. Assuming the bill is signed by the governor, this means that people found to be in possession of 10 grams or less of marijuana will be ticketed between $100-$200 per offense.
Previously, possession of that much marijuana meant a person could be charged with a misdemeanor, which carries a potential fine of up to $1,500 and a jail sentence of up to 6 months. The bill also states that anyone charged with a civil possession penalty would automatically have their record expunged six months after the bill’s effective date.
“Illinois is long overdue for creating marijuana policies that treat our residents more fairly and free law enforcement up for more serious crime,” said Rep. Kelly Cassidy. “We should not spend our resources arresting and jailing people just for the possession of a small amount of marijuana. This bill is an important step.”
Governor Rauner is expected to sign the proposal when it makes it to his desk. He vetoed a similar proposal last year would have set possession limits at 15 grams or less, and create maximum fines of $125. Rauner expressed interest in the proposal, but ultimately said it was too lenient. He wanted the possession threshold lowered and the fine amounts increased.
The Impacts of Marijuana Decriminalization
The move to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana in Illinois certainly have an impact across the state. Although we don’t know exactly how the bill will affect things, here are some ways the state may be impacted as a result of the bill.
- The state won’t continue to devote excess resources to keeping non-violent offenders behind bars, which will go a long way towards reaching Gov. Bruce Rauner’s goal of reducing the state’s prison population by 25 percent by 2025.
- Decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana should make it easier for low-level, nonviolent offenders to get jobs or find housing. Previously, a small mistake could haunt a person for years.
- The move should save the state a lot of money. Illinois spends over $38,000 a year per prisoner, and this move should help reduce Illinois’ prison population, which is currently operating at 150 percent capacity. Keeping low-level, nonviolent offenders out of jail will have a drastic impact on the state’s budget.