Illinois is now the most recent state to show signs that it is beginning to move in the direction of more sensible and responsible drug laws, particularly when it comes to marijuana.
This is because Governor Bruce Rauner signed legislation last week which makes Illinois the third largest state in the country to decriminalize minor marijuana offenses. The new law makes having 10 grams or less of marijuana a civil offense as opposed to a criminal one. Thus, the penalty for possession of over 10 grams will be a fine of up to 200 dollars.
The law also sets an official standard for what will be considered too impaired to drive. Previously, any trace amount of marijuana at all was considered impaired, an obviously oppressive and illogical standard since marijuana can remain in a person’s system for several weeks. The new law creates a standard of 5 nanograms of THC in the driver’s blood within two hours of consumption.
The governor had been expected to sign the bill despite the fact that he vetoed a similar piece of legislation last year. At the time of his veto, Rauner said that existing penalties for small marijuana offenses were too harsh and that “criminal prosecution of cannabis possession is also a drain on public resources.” We proudly welcome Governor Rauner to the 21st century.
But, not so fast…
Laimutis Nargelenas, Springfield Park Police Chief, and former lobbyist for the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, is very concerned. “You’re giving individuals more opportunities for drug usage,” said Nargelenas.
At this point, we would like to make a joke about welcoming Nargelenas to the 18th century, but, interestingly enough, the people of that century had more much more rational views on marijuana than he does. Instead, we will allow Nargelenas to remain in the Twilight Zone where marijuana is dangerous, Prozac is safe and police who are scarcely indistinguishable from the military is a sign that everything is okay.
Many others in the state have praised Rauner’s action, most likely tired of seeing non-violent people having their lives ruined, thrown into cages and otherwise being brutalized – not by the plant they were arrested for – but by the people who are allegedly protecting them from it.
The new Illinois bill will also require municipalities to purge citation records of marijuana possession every six months although it does allow local governments to opt out of this clause. The bill goes into effect immediately.