By Mark Fitton
Illinois News Network
SPRINGFIELD — State Rep. Kelly Cassidy has reintroduced legislation to put small-amount marijuana possession on par with a traffic ticket.
Cassidy, D-Chicago, says House Bill 4357, would make possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana a civil violation punishable by a fine. Adults would no longer face time in jail, and the civil offense automatically would be expunged in order to prevent a permanent criminal record.
“This is a reasonable proposal that is long overdue,” Cassidy said in a Chicago news conference Thursday.
“It needs to happen, and I am hopeful that we can make it happen quickly since it’s already such familiar territory for legislators and the governor.”
Cassidy sponsored a similar bill in the spring, and it passed both chambers. However, Gov. Bruce Rauner used his amendatory veto powers to suggest changes, and the House did not concur.
Cassidy said this version of the legislation addresses the governor’s concerns and reflects the language of his amendatory veto.
Rauner, R-Winnetka, earlier this year said Cassidy’s bill had merit, but he asked for the following changes, all of which Cassidy appears to have made in HB 4357:
- Making the decriminalization measure applicable to 10 grams of marijuana or less. The previous bill set the amount at 15 grams or less.
- Putting fines in the range of $100 to $200. The previous bill had them at $55 to $125.
- For the vehicle code, setting the measurement of the amount of the drug in a person’s system at 5 nanograms per liter of whole blood to trigger a DUI arrest. The governor thought the level suggested in the previous bill too permissive.
Under current Illinois law, possession of up to 2.5 grams of marijuana is a Class C misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,500. Possession from 2.5 grams to 10 grams is a Class B misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,500.
Twenty states and the District of Columbia have removed the threat of jail time for simple marijuana possession, Cassidy said.