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Governor’s vetoes address cannabis program, decriminalization of small amounts


From Illinois Business Journal news services

SPRINGFIELD – Legislation extending the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program to four years was rejected by Gov. Bruce Rauner on Friday.

His veto, however, offered specific changes. His action would only extend the program another two years from the date the first medical cannabis dispensary gets registered by the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.

“This action is reasonable and I support the amendatory veto.” said state Sen. Bill Haine, D-Alton, who was the chief sponsor of the measure. “The impetus behind this measure was to set a new deadline for the program to get up and running. The program was signed into law two years ago and has yet to be effectively implemented. The governor compromised, now let’s get this done and give patients access to the care they need.”

The original Medical Cannabis Pilot Program was signed into law in 2013.

In January, new updates to the medical marijuana laws were signed into law. These updates included increased authority to regulators, revised criminal background checks for patients and updated laws on DUI regulations for medical cannabis patients.

The legislation is House Bill 3299, and will be sent back to the House for review.                      


Rauner also issued an amendatory veto Friday of a bill that would remove criminal penalties for possession of small amount of marijuana, sending it back to the General Assembly for final approval.

The General Assembly has 15 days from the next session date to approve the amended version of HB 218, which needs to receive a simple majority vote in the House and then the Senate to officially become law. The original version, introduced by Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago, was approved in the Senate (37-19) on May 21 and in the House (62-53) on April 23.

Rauner’s amended version of HB 218 would make possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana a civil law violation punishable by a fine of up to $200 with no possibility of jail time, and the civil offense would be automatically expunged in order to prevent a permanent criminal record. The original version applied to possession of up to 15 grams of marijuana and set the amount of the fine at up to $125.

Under current Illinois law, possession of up to 2.5 grams of marijuana is a class C misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,500, and possession of more than 2.5 grams and up to 10 grams is a class B misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,500. More than 100 localities in Illinois have adopted measures that reduce penalties for simple marijuana possession.

Illinois would be the 21st state to decriminalize marijuana possession or make it legal for adults. Twenty other states and the District of Columbia have adopted laws removing the threat of jail time for simple marijuana possession, four of which have made possession legal for adults 21 years of age and older.

HB 218 also establishes a per se limit at which drivers are automatically deemed to be impaired by marijuana based on the level of active THC in the blood. Gov. Rauner’s amended version lowers the limit from 15 ng/mL to five ng/mL. Illinois currently has a zero tolerance law that considers drivers to be impaired if they have any amount of THC in their bodies, including inactive THC metabolites that can be detectable for several weeks after consuming marijuana.

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