Marijuana decriminalization awaits Governor's signature

ILLINOIS - The culture of marijuana is undoubtedly changing.  Some states are legalizing its recreational use while others are lessening the penalty for possession.  There's a chance Illinois will follow the trend.  State lawmakers have passed a decriminalization bill through the House, Senate, and onto Governor Rauner's desk.  Under current state law, first time offenders face a misdemeanor charge for possessing 30 grams or less.  Any more than that, it's a felony. 

This new bill makes possession of 15 grams or less a noncriminal offense.  Instead of making an arrest, police would issue a ticket with a fine up to $125.  Lieutenant Jamie Belcher of the Macon County Sheriff's Office says the law would allow officers to make better use of their time.

"With just writing a citation on the street, giving them a court date, we won't spend that extra amount of time it takes to get a person into the jail as well as some of the report writing issues,” said Belcher.  “You know, tying up manpower by doing that."

The bill will also allow for the penalty to be expunged from your record in a matter of months.

"Law enforcement as far as the Sheriff is concerned and Macon County is concerned, we want to educate people as opposed to incarcerate people,” said Belcher.  “Once you start incarcerating people, then that could lead down a bad path that nobody wants to see.  Nobody wants to see people not getting jobs because of their criminal history."

Those against the bill argue it promotes drug abuse and will lead to more car accidents. 

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