A bill to lower penalties for marijuana possession is getting a second chance, this time with the changes Gov. Bruce Rauner wanted.
Rauner had issued an amendatory veto on a bill passed earlier this year, arguing that while he agreed with the principle of keeping people out of jail for such low-level drug offenses, the legislation as passed would allow people to carry too much pot and set fines too low.
State Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago) is obliging him with a new bill which would make possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana subject to only a fine of up to $200. Cassidy doesn't expect much resistance from Republican legislators from any part of the state.
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"We had great bipartisan support, and I would expect that since we are using the language written by the governor that we would have even more," Cassidy said.
Under current state law, anyone possessing 2.5 grams or more of marijuana could face arrest or jail time.
Some communities have already made further reductions to penalties for marijuana penalties, and Cassidy says those areas will be to retain their local standards. Chicago, for example, allows possession of up to 15 grams with a penalty of up to $500. For towns and cities that have stricter penalties, however, this bill would override their ordinances.
The tighter restrictions Rauner wants will result in reduced savings for the state. Cassidy says the Illinois Department of Corrections had estimated her original bill would have saved it about $30 million over ten years.
As for whether this is all leading to full legalization in Illinois, Cassidy says that's not the goal, although she's personally in favor of it.
"I'm 100 percent in support of full legalization, and 100 percent in support of the revenue that we could get from it," Cassidy said.
The state could make up to $100 million in additional tax revenue annually if marijuana was legalized for recreational purposes, according to an earlier estimate by the Illinois chapter of the National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws (NORML).