Pubdate: Sun, 22 May 2016
Source: News-Gazette, The (Champaign, IL)
Copyright: 2016 The News-Gazette


The days of "reefer madness" are long ago and far away.

Illinois legislators have sent to Gov. Bruce Rauner a bill 
decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana, a 
measure taken in recognition of its widespread use and the futility 
of imposing more serious penalties on violators. The bill 
incorporates changes suggested by Gov. Bruce Rauner in an amendatory 
veto of similar legislation passed last year.

Because the 2016 bill meets the objections he outlined in the 2015 
bill, Rauner said he expects to sign it into law.

Considering marijuana's controversial history, this is landmark 
legislation. It reflects changing attitudes regarding this substance, 
the failed war on drugs and even marijuana's widely exaggerated 
benefits as a medicinal tool.

Under SB 2228, individuals caught possessing 10 grams or less of 
marijuana would be subject to fines only - between $100 and $200. 
Under current law, similar violators face a misdemeanor charge 
punishable by fines up to $1,500 and six months in jail.

No one, however, should be under the impression that big fines and 
jail time are standard penalties for those who currently run afoul of 
the law. Sensible prosecutors realize that small-time offenses merit 
small-time penalties.

In that sense, the legislation better reflects reality in the 
criminal justice system.

Even though the penalties are being reduced, no one, however, should 
be under the impression that the use of marijuana is a social good. 
Individuals, particularly young people as well as those suffering 
from mental illness, put their mental and physical health at risk by 
relying on these intoxicants.

What this legislation recognizes is that there are better ways of 
dealing with violators - both for society and individuals.

Resources in the criminal justice system are scarce and expensive. 
They should be reserved for more serious cases than slackers who view 
getting stoned as a productive use of their time.
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