A measure to make the penalty for possession of small amounts of cannabis the equivalent of a traffic ticket, rather than jail time, could come up for a vote soon, but not everyone is on board.
Democratic state Rep. Kelly Cassidy said the new attempt mirrors the governor’s proposed changes of a bill he vetoed last year. Cassidy told WMAY Springfield the issue isn’t about drugs as much as it is about criminal justice.
“Locking up people for low - level cannabis possession doesn’t make us safer,” Cassidy said. “It just wastes resources and money and ruins lives.”
Illinois Church Action on Alcohol and Addiction Problems Executive Direct Anita Bedell opposes the measure saying the threshold of 10 grams is the equivalent of 25 joints.
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“To me it’s just going to put more marijuana on the streets. There’s no deterrent for youth not to use if there’s no penalty,” Bedell said.
However, supporters of the legislation say the penalty will be similar to a traffic ticket, not a criminal conviction, something Cassidy said follows people for the rest of their lives.
Currently a first time offense of possessing 10 grams or more is a misdemeanor with a subsequent offense being a felony.
Cassidy said more than 200 jurisdictions across the state have different cannabis possession enforcement policies, and the proposed law would level the playing field.
“What we have now, with this patchwork we have described, really creates a system where, you know, where you are and what you look like determines whether you go to jail or get a ticket,” Cassidy said.
The measure would also allow for a driver to have a certain level of THC -- the active ingredient in marijuana -- in their blood when behind the wheel, something Cassidy says modernizes the current zero-tolerance policy.
Bedell said the bill could lead to an increase in drug-related vehicle crashes and fatalities.
Bedell also said the bill is a step toward legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes, something else she opposes.
Cassidy said the measure doesn’t decriminalize possession of marijuana, it reprioritizes enforcement efforts.