Illinois Senate the Latest Legislative Body to Pass Marijuana Decriminalization

   

Marijuana decriminalization is a sensible policy that has both liberal and conservative rationales. It saves money, better prioritizes police resources and prevents minor marijuana offenses from ruining the lives of otherwise law-abiding citizens. The last three United States presidents all are known to have used marijuana and you can most likely add the next president as a former user as well. It is great to see cannabis decriminalization measures passing all across the country, for both the good policy aspect and the fact that decriminalization moves the state one step closer to legalizing cannabis.

Illinois looks to be the next state to decriminalize marijuana, with up to 15 grams being a civil fine, like a speeding ticket, instead of an arrestable crime that can have serious repercussions on one’s employment and educational opportunities. The bill will go through some amendments before it is sent to Republican Governor Bruce Rauner’s desk. The Illinois Senate passed the decriminalization bill, sponsored by Democrat Michael Noland, with a 37 to 19 vote as the Chicago Tribune reports:

“It’s wrong, and I would encourage the children of this state and my own children to abstain from the use of the substance, but people do use this, and it should not be something that ruins social lives and professional lives as well,” said Noland, who is mulling a bid for the 8th Congressional District seat now held by U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth of Hoffman Estates. “People have been arrested at very young ages for this and have suffered the consequences.”

Supporters said the measure would keep low-level drug offenders out of the state’s clogged jails and prisons. Earlier this year, Rauner announced a goal of reducing the state’s prison population by 25 percent over the next 10 years. On Thursday, Rauner spokeswoman Catherine Kelly offered the administration’s standard response when asked about pending legislation: “The governor will carefully consider any legislation that crosses his desk.”

Another sponsor of the measure, Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago, said she doubted that decriminalization would lead soon to the legalization of marijuana in Illinois. But she said the trend is in that direction.

As the Chicago Tribune notes, this bill comes on the heels of Cook County State’s Attorney announcing that Illinois most populous county (where Chicago resides) would stop arresting people for minor marijuana offenses. This decriminalization measure following Cook County’s policy change, along with the statement from Illinois Representative Kelly Cassidy that the state is trending toward legalization, demonstrates the step-by-step nature of marijuana law reform. Hopefully, Governor Rauner will sign this decriminalization bill and Illinois advocates can start lobbying for full legalization in coming legislative sessions.

Anthony Johnson

Anthony, a longtime cannabis law reform advocate, was Chief Petitioner and co-author of Measure 91, Oregon's cannabis legalization effort. He served as director of both the New Approach Oregon and Vote Yes on 91 PACs, the political action committees responsible for the state's legalization campaign. As director of New Approach Oregon, Anthony continues to work towards effectively implementing the cannabis legalization system while protecting small business owners and the rights of patients. He sits on the Oregon Marijuana Rules Advisory Committee and fights for sensible rules at the legislature as well as city councils and county commissions across the state. Anthony helps cannabis business comply with Oregon's laws and advises advocates across the country. He also serves as content director of both the International Cannabis Business Conference and the Oregon Marijuana Business Conference, helping share the vision of moving the cannabis industry forward in a way that maintains the focus on keeping people out of prison and protecting patients. He was a member of the Oregon Health Authority Rules Advisory Committee, assisting the drafting of the administrative rules governing Oregon’s state-licensed medical marijuana facilities. He first co-authored and helped pass successful marijuana law reform measures while a law student at the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law. He passed the Oregon Bar in 2005 and practiced criminal defense for two years before transitioning to working full-time in the political advocacy realm. His blogs on Marijuana Politics are personal in nature and don't speak for or reflect the opinions of any group or organization.