An Illinois bill that would eliminate the possibility of arrest and criminal prosecution for low-level cannabis possession in the state passed through the state House last week.
House Bill 218 (HB218) aims to alter established law enforcement priorities in the state of Illinois. It was introduced in January by Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-14) along with 16 bicameral co-sponsors. It passed in the state House on April 23 with a 62-53 vote.
Individuals caught possessing up to 15 grams of marijuana would be "guilty of a civil law violation punishable by a maximum fine of $125." Possession of between 15 and 30 grams of marijuana would be considered a Class B misdemeanor. Possession of more than 30 grams of marijuana would still be considered a felony under Illinois state law.
Possession of drug paraphernalia would be considered "a civil law violation punishable by a maximum fine of $125" as well. The law enforcement records of people found guilty of the civil infractions created by the legislation would be expunged annually. Individuals who previously received felony convictions would be eligible for medical marijuana, as long as the penalties for those convictions were reduced to misdemeanors or civil infractions under HB218.
Although the passage of HB218 would not mean an immediate end to legal restrictions against marijuana, it is still a great step in the right direction. Decriminalization efforts can often lead the way toward more substantive reforms down the line. After the hysterical 'Reefer Madness' fantasies of the prohibitionists do not come to fruition, it is easier to make the argument for full legalization of the plant.
Activists should embrace any opportunity that they have to make it more difficult for people to be locked in cages for the non-violent non-crime of marijuana possession. The end of the federal drug war is on its way whether detractors like it or not. Measures like HB218 can help grease the wheels on our way toward that inevitable goal!
HOW TO SUPPORT THIS BILL
If you live in the state of Illinois, contact your state senator immediately. It is important for you to politely urge them to co-sponsor and support this important bill. That is how you can make a difference in the fight against cannabis prohibition.
If you live in different state, contact your state legislators and urge them to introduce a supporting bill to HB218 such as our P.E.A.C.E (Preventing Excessive Allocations for Cannabis Enforcement) Act.