SPRINGFIELD - Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner promised the voters of Illinois he "had no social agenda" while running to oust Democrat incumbent Governor Pat Quinn in 2014. While Republicans may have thought that meant he wouldn't push abortion, gay marriage or assisted suicide, they ignored or dismissed the social agenda of passionate Leftists in the legislature.
Governor Rauner had no choice but to deal with social agenda legislation because parts of a social agenda landed on his desk. Friday, he not only agreed with Democrats that the State's position on moral issues trumps the Church's positions, he agreed with drug profiteers that small amounts of cannabis should be legal.
Rauner sided with the Marijuana Policy Project in signing a law making the possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana a civil violation - in other words, the penalty of a mere ticket for $100 to $200. The law is effective immediately - no more arrests for small amounts of pot, even if it is not medically prescribed.
Until now, possession of up to 2.5 grams of marijuana was a class C misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,500; possession of 2.5-10 grams was a class B misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,500.
Chris Lindsey, senior legislative counsel for the Marijuana Policy Project, lauded the governor signing SB 2228.
“We applaud Gov. Rauner and the legislature for replacing Illinois’s needlessly draconian marijuana possession law with a much more sensible policy. This common sense legislation will prevent countless citizens from having their lives turned upside down by a marijuana possession arrest.
“Nobody should face a lifelong criminal record and potential jail time for possessing a substance that is safer than alcohol. Serious criminal penalties should be reserved for people who commit serious crimes, not low-level marijuana offenses.”
Not only does this reform stop wasting police resources that can be better focused on more serious crimes, it’ll save the state millions in enforcement and incarceration costs. According to a financial impact analysis by the Illinois Sentencing Policy Advisory Council, exchanging criminal penalties for civil fines would result in a net benefit of up to $24 million to the state of Illinois over three years, including $15.1 million in avoided incarceration and probation costs and up to $9.1 million in estimated ticket revenue from the fines.
Marijuana possession is probably the most minor offense that can result in incarceration and is a waste of limited criminal-justice resources. Abolishing jail time for low-level marijuana possession can prevent the family hardship that often results when a person is incarcerated, as well as job loss, thereby preserving an offender’s long-term prospects for legal employment.
Marijuana devotees say they commonly get two regular-sized joints out of a gram of cannabis. So the possession of approximately twenty joints by a person without a medical marijuana license could cost a $200 ticket under the new law.