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Will low-level marijuana possession soon be decriminalized in IL?

One area of drug crime policy where there have been some major shifts in recent times here in the U.S. is marijuana policy. A general trend that is occurring in many states in this regard is a move towards more leniency when it comes to marijuana offenses. 

One of the leniency trends has been a move towards decriminalization for marijuana possession offenses involving small amounts of the drug. Currently, there are 17 states that have opted for decriminalization when it comes to low-level marijuana possession offenses.

Illinois recently moved one step closer to joining the states that have decriminalized such offenses. A decriminalization bill has been approved by the state's legislature. The bill was passed by the state's senate yesterday after having been passed by the state's house last month.

What specifically would this bill decriminalize? It would decriminalize possession of 15 grams or less of cannabis. Under current law, possession of this amount of marijuana can expose a person to arrest and criminal penalties, including jail time, here in Illinois. Under the bill, the arrest possibility and criminal penalties would be removed for this possession level.

An important thing to note is that the bill would not make it so there would be absolutely no penalties for marijuana possession of 15 grams or less in the state. Under the bill, a person found to be in possession of this amount of marijuana could be given a traffic-ticket-like fine, generally of up to $125.

Sponsors of the bill have said that they are going to hold off on bringing the bill to the governor until some language cleanup is completed. One wonders if the governor will sign the bill once it is ultimately brought before him. The decriminalization would go into effect on Jan. 1 of next year if the governor were to sign the bill into law.

Thus, it is a possibility that low-level marijuana possession could be decriminalized in the state by next year. Of course, even if this decriminalization bill were to become law, there would still be plenty of marijuana allegations a person could face criminal penalties for in the state, as higher levels of marijuana possession and other marijuana offenses would remain subject to criminal penalties. Defense attorneys can give guidance to individuals who are facing criminal charges over alleged marijuana possession.

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