Legislation to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of cannabis has been approved with a 9 to 3 vote by the Illinois Senate Criminal Law Committee. The bill has already been approved 63 to 53 by the state’s House of Representatives.
The proposal – which is now up for a full Senate vote – would make it so that those caught possessing 15 grams of cannabis or less would no longer face the possibility of jail time or a criminal charge. Instead, they would face a ticket of no more than $125. Under current Illinois law, the possession of up to 15 grams of cannabis is a misdemeanor which can result in imprisonment for up to a year.
“We currently have a patchwork of local ordinances where there is the possibility of getting a ticket but not a given that you’ll get a ticket, so it’s an open question where you go whether you’re going to get arrested or get a ticket,” says Representative Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago), the bill’s primary sponsor. “That creates a system whereby it depends on where you live, and what you look like, and unfortunately more often than not, it is folks who are black and brown who are being arrested, who are being pulled off the streets, pulled away from their jobs and their families and put into our jails and prisons.”
If approved by the Senate, House Bill 218 would be sent to Governor Bruce Rauner for consideration.