How the new Illinois Marijuana Legalization laws will affect you

Beginning January 1, 2020, you will be able to possess of up to 30 grams of cannabis, 5 grams of cannabis concentrate or 500 milligrams of THC without violating Illinois state law.

Under the law you will have to purchase your cannabis from approved dispensaries.  You cannot grow it on your own unless you are a medical marijuana cardholder, and even then, you will be limited to 5 plants.  You will not be able to legally purchase marijuana from a street dealer.

You also cannot use marijuana in public places.  You will have to use it at home, and even then, discretely.  You can’t sit on your porch where neighbors can see you toking.

The change will not effect our current DUI law, which still makes it a crime to drive while either impaired due to cannabis or with 5 nanograms or more of THC in one’s blood or 10 nanograms in any other bodily substance (i.e., urine or saliva).   This means that I suggest that you do not drive for several hours after using marijuana, probably not until the next day after a full night’s sleep.

Also, the change in the law does not mean that employers cannot still fire you for failing a drug test showing that you were positive for cannabis.  Illinois is an “at will” state, meaning that an employer can fire you “at will” for just about any reason (except when in violation of civil rights or contract).

Finally, this change only affects Illinois law.  You could still be arrested and charged by Federal officers.  This is most likely to happen while on Federal property, whether a Federal building such as a courthouse, post office, or other governmental building,  on Federal land or on the lake by the Coast Guard.

Here are some articles with further information about the new law:

Chicago Sun-Times

Chicago Tribune

Amended bill setting “legal limit” for marijuana DUIs sent to Governor

Last August, Governor Rauner vetoed a bill which would have decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana and replaced Illinois’ “zero tolerance” cannabis DUI law with a “legal limit” of 15 nanograms of THC per milliliter of whole blood. At the time, the Governor stated that he recommended a limit of 5 nanograms, the standard adopted by Colorado.

The State legislature has now passed a new bill which incorporates the Governor’s objections to last year’s bill.

From the Chicago Tribune:

House lawmakers sent Gov. Bruce Rauner legislation on Wednesday to decriminalize marijuana across Illinois, meaning people caught with small amounts of marijuana would be fined instead of receiving jail time.

The legislation incorporates changes the Republican governor suggested when he used his amendatory veto powers to rewrite similar legislation last year. Rauner said the old version would have let people carry too much marijuana and set fines too low.

The new edition drops the number of grams allowed from 15 to 10 and raises the range of fines from $55 to $125 to between $100 and $200. Municipalities could add to the fines and implement other penalties, such as a requirement for drug treatment. Citations would be automatically expunged twice a year, on Jan. 1 and July 1.

Under current Illinois law, possession of up to 10 grams is a class B misdemeanor that could result in up to six months in jail and fines of up to $1,500…

The bill also would loosen the state’s zero-tolerance policy for driving under the influence. As it stands, a driver can be charged if any trace of marijuana is detected, even if it was ingested weeks before and the driver shows no signs of impairment. Under the newest proposal, drivers would not be charged with a DUI unless they have 5 nanograms or more of THC in their blood, or 10 nanograms or more of THC in their saliva.

Making it easy: Woman arrested for smoking pot outside police station

…while illegally parked in an officer’s car!

From the Chicago Tribune:

In what Riverside police are calling “probably the easiest cannabis arrest” they’ve ever made, a Chicago woman has been accused of smoking pot in her car outside the police station in a parking space reserved for squad cars.

According to a news release from the Riverside Police Department, Elizabeth Klebba, 21, on Monday was parked in a spot marked “police unit parking only” outside the station at 31 Riverside Road. She was waiting for a friend who on Saturday had been charged with DUI and who was attempting to retrieve her impounded vehicle.

When an officer approached the 2002 Toyota, Klebba was in the driver’s seat, the passenger window was open and the officer “could smell a very strong odor of cannabis coming from inside the vehicle,” according to the news release.

When Klebba exited her vehicle, she was asked if there was marijuana inside and replied there was, police said. The officer recovered a container with a substance that tested positive for marijuana, and two items used for smoking marijuana, both of which contained the substance, police said.

Klebba, of the 5900 block of South Karlov Avenue in Chicago, was cited under village ordinances for possession of cannabis, possession of drug paraphernalia and also for improper parking.

“To think that an individual would come into the police parking lot, park in a spot that was posted as ‘police unit parking only’ and then openly smoke cannabis is simply absurd,” Riverside police Chief Thomas Weitzel said.

“The smoking of cannabis and cannabis possession has become so commonplace in America today that individuals don’t give it a second thought as to where and when they smoke it — not even if it is in a police station parking lot,” he said.

Actually, Ms. Klebba got off easy.  Under Illinois law, she could have been charged with driving under the influence, because a) she was in “actual physical control” of a motor vehicle by sitting behind the wheel of her car and b) arguably had “any amount” of cannabis in her blood, breath or urine.  625 ILCS 5/11-501(a)(6). It is a sign of the times that this “zero tolerance” DUI law has been looked at with disfavor and is not consistently applied anymore.

New version of IL Marijuana decriminalization bill proposed

Last August, Governor Rauner vetoed a bill which would have decriminalized small amounts of marijuana, and created a “legal limit” of THC for drugged driving cases (as opposed to Illinois’ current “zero tolerance” statute).

In particular, the Governor wanted a “legal limit” of 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood, the same as Colorado, instead of the bill’s 15 nanogram standard, which was closer in line to a government study which showed that 13 nanograms is equivalent to the 0.08 blood alcohol level used in alcohol DUI cases.

Representative Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago) has proposed a new bill (HB 4357) which much closer to Rauner’s amendatory veto.

Under the proposed bill, the “legal limit” for DUI cannabis cases would be, as Rauner requested, 5 nanograms of THC, and possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana would be a fine only violation, with fines up to $200.


Gov. vetoes bill to decriminalize pot and replace zero tolerance pot DUIs with a legal limit

As you may recall, both the Illinois House and Senate passed bills that would decriminalize small amounts of marijuana possession and amend the DUI laws to establish a “legal limit” of 15 nanograms of THC per milliliter of whole blood (or proof of impairment) to prove a DUI cannabis case, as opposed to the current “any amount of cannabis” standard.

The Governor (and many police departments) felt that the 15 nanogram standard was too high.  Colorado uses a 5 nanogram standard.

However, as I blogged last June, a rigorous study by the National Institute of Drug abuse showed that 13 nanograms correlated to the 0.08 BAC standard for alcohol.

15 is a lot closer to 13 than 5.  Maybe Governor Rauner is using a “Price is Right” standard where it is better to not “go over” than be closest.

If you wonder why we should get rid of a “zero tolerance” approach, here are a couple of my past blog posts to refresh your memory:

From the Chicago Tribune (story by Monique Garcia):

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner on Friday used his veto powers to rewrite a bill aimed at decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana, saying the measure that lawmakers sent him would let people carry too much pot and sets fines too low.

Rauner said while he supports the “fundamental purposes” of keeping people out of jail and cutting court costs, such a significant change in drug laws “must be made carefully and incrementally.” Sponsors of the bill pushed back, saying the changes are “low-hanging fruit” when it comes to reforming the criminal justice system and contending the governor is working against his own goal of reducing the number of prison inmates.

Under the proposal, people caught with up to 15 grams of marijuana — about the equivalent of 25 cigarette-sized joints — would not go to court but instead receive fines ranging from $55 to $125. Rauner said those standards were too lax and the threshold should be lowered to 10 grams and fines should range from $100 to $200.

The governor also took issue with a provision that would loosen the state’s zero-tolerance policy for driving under the influence of cannabis. Currently, a driver can be charged if any trace of marijuana is detected, even if it was ingested days or weeks before and a driver showed no signs of impairment.

The bill that lawmakers sent Rauner would have set new limits of 15 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood. Rauner again argued that standard went too far in the opposite direction, suggesting the limit instead should be 5 nanograms per milliliter of blood…

The bill now returns to lawmakers, who can vote to go along with Rauner’s changes or reject them. If lawmakers opt not to take up the changes, the bill dies. Cassidy said she would have to regroup with supporters to decide the next move.