State lawmakers are considering a measure to de-criminalize marijuana. A bill sponsored by State Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago) wouldn’t legalize it, but it would change possession of 30 grams or less from a misdemeanor into a regulatory offense, says Chris Lindsey of the Marijuana Policy Project.
“An individual can be ticketed, can be cited, and then would be responsible for paying a fine, and Rep. Cassidy’s bill would cap that fine at $100, he said.
Kathie Kane-Willis of the Illinois Consortium on Drug Policy says this would save money, in terms of police, court and jail costs, and free up cops from the burden of 50,000 annual marijuana possession arrests. “We’re not saying let’s have fewer police officers. Let’s have them do work that might be more useful to our communities,” she said.
Kane-Willis is also concerned about the criminal records that follow those busted for pot possession. She says these arrests can prevent someone from attending school, getting housing or getting a job. More than 100 Illinois cities have ordinances that allow officers to write tickets for possession of small amounts of marijuana, but the state law making it a misdemeanor is at this time always available to cops and prosecutors.