SPRINGFIELD - Legislation to expand the use of marijuana have advanced this week as three different measures got out of Democratic-controlled House and Senate committees with only token opposition.
State Sen. Iris Martinez (D-Chicago) moved legislation that would permit minors with seizure disorders to take a derivative of medical cannabis. Meanwhile, the House Restorative Justice Committee passed two separate pieces of legislation that would ease the punishment on those caught with marijuana.
State Rep. Christian Mitchell (D-Chicago) pushed legislation (HB4299), which would make possession of up to 30 grams of marijuana a misdemeanor punishable with a fine of no more than $100 - about the same as a traffic ticket.
Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago) passed another pot-ticketing bill 5-2 in committee that would decriminalize marijuana. Under her legislation (HB 5708), possession of less than 30 grams of marijuana would be a “regulatory offense” that would still include a fine of $100 but not exist on someone’s record.
Anita Bedell, with Church Action on Alcohol and Addiction Problems, opposed Cassidy’s and Mitchell’s bills. She’s worried about the message lowering marijuana penalties sends to young people.
“There are negative consequences of marijuana,” Bedell said. “The effects on teenage brains are long-term and irreversible. This makes it sound like it doesn’t cause problems, but it does — especially for young people. If it’s like a speeding ticket, that shows teens it’s not much of a problem and more and more people are going to use marijuana.”
Bedell said the Legislature is “rushing” down the road of legalizing marijuana completely, an outcome that she said would be “disastrous” to the state.