Illinois – Governor Bruce Rauner signed legislation Friday that decriminalizes possession of smalls amounts of marijuana in the state of Illinois.

Cities like Chicago have already taken measures for the decriminalization of minor possession of marijuana. Now, after Republican Gov. Rauner signed Senate Bill 2228, marijuana possession in small amounts will be punishable by fines, discarding the possibilities of jail time for the offenders. The recently approved, and immediately effective bill will punish possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana with a fine of between $100 and $200. As part of the measures the bill implies, civil citations of every person charged with possessing less than 10 grams of marijuana will be erased, with the intention to reduce the chances of the minor offense keeping a person from finding a job or even breaking family ties because of incarceration.

Gov. Bruce Rauner. Photo: AP/Seth Perlman/commondreams

“This commonsense legislation will prevent countless citizens from having their lives turned upside down by a marijuana possession arrest,” stated Chris Lindsey, senior legislative counsel for the Marijuana Policy Project, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The decision makes the state the third largest in the nation to decriminalize marijuana possession.

Previous Illinois law could send a person up to 6 months in jail for possession

Before Gov. Rauner signed the bill, possession of up to 2.5 grams of marijuana was a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by up to 30 days in jail. Being caught with more than 2.5 grams and up to 10 was considered a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and fines up to $1,500.

The state’s zero-tolerance policy for driving under the influence will also be affected by the new law. Previously, drivers who had traces of marijuana in their systems, even after weeks of the last consumption, could be charged.

Now, drivers will only be charged if they have over five nanograms of THC, marijuana’s intoxicating chemical, in their blood, or more than ten nanograms of THC in their saliva, within two hours of ingestion.

In 2012, Chicago would allow police to charge fines of $250 to $500 for people in possession of 15 grams or less of marijuana. The new state bill aims to follow the measure implemented by Chicago, but without overriding the laws this and other cities already have. Individual municipalities may charge offenders with fines, but also submit them to other penalties, like make them attend drug treatment, and similar.

The measure followed Governor’s veto on similar legislation last year. In that occasion, Rauner made his point by stating that the penalties then applied for possession of small amounts of marijuana were too severe.

Marijuana possession is a minor offense that costs the state significant amounts of public resources, and millions are spent on enforcement and incarceration expenses. By removing jail time as an option and exchanging it with fines, the state of Illinois would save itself over $15 million, and would end up benefiting with up to $24 million in over three years. Criminal justice resources would then be led to support more severe and harming crimes.

Source: Chicago Tribune