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Proposal Would Lower Penalties For Marijuana Possession

marijuana plant

The Illinois Senate has voted to reduce the penalties for carrying small amounts of marijuana. The legislation would make possession a ticketable offense, rather than one requiring jail time.

The sponsor, Democratic Sen. Michael Noland, says it would save the state money.

"I'm really looking forward to taking the $29 million a year that we're going to save on prosecuting these cases and actually using it for drug treatment for harder drugs," Noland said.

Under current law, someone with 10 grams or more can be charged with a felony after the first offense. House Bill 218 would change that to make possession of less than 15 grams a ticket with a $125 fine. 

Opponents, like Republican Sen. Tim Bivins, say it makes people think marijuana is safe.

"To the young people up here in the gallery, we're sending a message that it's ok," Bivins said. "So I guarantee you as you go down this path, what you allow, you will get more of."

The measure would also establish a limit for using marijuana while driving. Police officers would be able to test drivers as they do now with blood alcohol tests.

The legislation has passed both the House and Senate, but needs the governor’s approval to become law.

Lisa Ryan is a graduate student in the public affairs reporting program at the University of Illinois at Springfield. She previously worked at Indiana Public Radio and the college radio station founded by David Letterman. She is a 2014 broadcast journalism and political science graduate of Ball State University.
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