Illinois House approves bill to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana

The Illinois House approved a bill Tuesday that would replace criminal penalties with a civil fine for possession of small amounts of marijuana.

The bill will now go to Governor Bruce Rauner for approval.

SB 2228, introduced into the State Senate by Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago), would remove criminal penalties for possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana. Instead, possession would be punishable by a fine ranging from $100 to $200. Adults will not face jail time, and the civil offense would be automatically expunged to prevent a permanent criminal record.

The bill takes includes amendments proposed by Gov. Rauner when he vetoed a similar House bill by Rep. Kelly Cassidy in 2015.

Under current law, posession of up to 2.5 grams of marijuana is a class C misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,500 and possession of 2.5 to 10 grams is a class B misdemeanor and punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine up to $1,500. Possession of more than 10 grams is a felony.

"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. 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, and I am happy to be a part of this change in policy."
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