In June 1971—following the cultural and sexual revolutions of the 1960s—President Richard Nixon declared war on drugs. Over the next several years, the Nixon administration dramatically increased the size and scope of federal anti-drug agencies and began pushing for harsh sentences for even non-violent drug offenders. In the decades since, the United States government and others around the world have continued to fight against drugs, locking up millions and creating a thriving black market for illegal substances of all kinds. In many states, including Illinois, a person can be arrested just for riding in the same car as a person in possession of drugs.
Time for Change
After 45 years, however, there is growing pressure throughout the country for a new approach to America’s drug concerns. Perhaps the most telling indication of the evolution that is taking place is the national attitude toward marijuana. While the federal Drug Enforcement Agency continues to consider marijuana a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act—alongside drugs like heroin and LSD—individual states are taking action on their own. A Schedule I drug is one that has no currently accepted medical use, yet 28 states and the District of Columbia have created legal medical marijuana programs. Following this year’s general election, there are even six states that have legalized recreational use of the drug.
New in Illinois
In 2014, the law permitting a medical cannabis program in Illinois officially went into effect. Some 23 months later, the first dispensaries opened and eligible registered patients were able to buy the drug legally in the state. Efforts to decriminalize low-level marijuana possession, however, fell short in 2015.
This year, however, was a different story. In late July, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner approved a bipartisan measure that eliminates criminal prosecution for possession of 10 grams or less of marijuana and/or related drug paraphernalia. Decriminalization is not the same as legalization; possession of marijuana without a valid medical registration card is still illegal. The consequences, though, are now similar to those associated with a parking ticket. A person found to be in possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana will face a $120 fine. Low-level possession offenses will also be automatically expunged every January and July.
Lawmakers and advocates of the new law believe that it will seriously reduce the number of marijuana-related arrests in the state each year. They hope that the end result will be fewer individuals in prison for non-violent, minor offenses, freeing up corrections and law enforcement resources to be used in areas where the need is more pressing.
Call for Help Today
If you are facing criminal charges related to the possession of any type of illegal drug, including marijuana, contact an experienced Chicago criminal defense attorney. Call Luisi Legal Group today at 773-276-5541 to discuss your case and your available options.