Legislation to decriminalize small amounts of cannabis was debated in the Senate on May 14, but later held by the sponsor in response to concerns with the legislation. House Bill 218 would reduce penalties for possession of 15 grams or less of cannabis, establishing a maximum $125 fine for the offense.
Supporters of the legislation, including the Illinois State’s Attorneys Association, say that the measure will create a uniform penalty through Illinois and remove non-violent, minor offenders from the state’s overcrowded court system. Additionally, proponents say the measure, which allows for numerous ways to test for cannabis DUI charges, will make it easier to prosecute drivers found to be under the influence of marijuana when behind the wheel.
The bill also cracks down on “butane hash oil,” an extremely potent form of cannabis that is manufactured using butane. Because butane is highly flammable, butane hash oil has caused home explosions and serious fires, which pose a significant threat—particularly to first responders arriving at the scene.
However, opponents raised concerns about the impact of a provision in the bill that establishes THC levels—the chemical responsible for marijuana’s psychological effects—that are allowable while driving. Critics found fault with the standards for cannabis DUI in the bill, which are not as strict as those in place for an alcohol DUI. Many law enforcement organizations continue to oppose the legislation.