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Governor Rejects Marijuana Bills, Sends Amendments Back to Legislature

marijuana, governor, DuPage County Criminal Defense AttorneyLate last week, legislative efforts to loosen the state’s policies on marijuana were temporarily derailed as Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner used his amendatory veto power to send two bills back to the House and Senate. Both measures addressed the legality of marijuana to an extent, each taking aim at separate issues. State lawmakers must now decide whether to accept the governor’s changes or to start over with fresh legislation.

Delayed Decriminalization

Of the two bills, the one with the larger expected impact sought to decriminalize low-level possession of marijuana to a petty offense. Under current law, marijuana possession is a misdemeanor criminal offense, punishable by prison terms and large fines. The measure, originally introduced in the House by Chicago Democrat Kelly Cassidy, would have made possession of up to 15 grams of marijuana an offense similar to a traffic ticket, subject to a fine of $55 to $125.

Governor Rauner, however, indicated that, in his opinion, the presented measure was too lenient. While he agreed with the effort to decriminalize minor possession which, in turn, would decrease prison overcrowding, he vetoed the bill offering stricter limitations. His version would restrict minor possession to 10 grams or less, and increase the fines to a range of $100 to $200.

Extension of Medical Marijuana Pilot Program

The other related measure was an effort by Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, to restore the state’s long-delayed medical-use marijuana program to its original intended length. The pilot program officially went into effect on January 1, 2014, and was slated to run for four years so officials could consider its results and statewide impacts. However, the program has yet to get fully underway as dispensaries are finally expected to open their doors sometime in October. Rep. Lang’s proposal would have allowed the four-year clock to start when the dispensaries begin operation.

The governor agreed that an extension was appropriate, but would only go so far as extend the pilot program by four months. This, he said, would account for the delay in implementation by former Governor Pat Quinn’s administration. Further extension may be considered at a later point, Rauner stipulated.

Many around the state believe that the House and Senate are likely to approve the governor’s amendments as a necessary step in the process. Until they do, however, the state’s laws regarding marijuana remain unchanged. If you are facing charges of marijuana possession, or any other drug crimes, contact our office today. Attorney Stephen A. Brundage is an experienced Wheaton criminal defense lawyer who understands the Illinois justice system. He and his team are prepared to help you no matter how difficult your situation may seem. Call 630-260-9647 to schedule a confidential consultation.

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