The Illinois Senate has voted to reduce the penalties for carrying small amounts of marijuana. The legislation would make possession a ticketable offense, rather than one requiring jail time.

The sponsor, Democratic Sen. Michael Noland, says it would save the state money.

"I'm really looking forward to taking the $29 million a year that we're going to save on prosecuting these cases and actually using it for drug treatment for harder drugs," Noland said.

BrettLevinPhotography / Flickr

Low level marijuana users may soon catch a break in Illinois. Rather than going to jail, it'd be more like getting a speeding ticket.

The repercussions for having pot vary; Rep. Kelly Cassidy says there's a patchwork of more than 100 different local ordinances all over the state.

"And the outcome from this patchwork system puts in place an unjust and confusing system wherein where you live and what you look like dictates whether or not you'll be arrested for extremely low-level marijuana possession," she says.

Medical Marijuana
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Patients with certain illnesses are on their way to being able to use medical marijuana in Illinois, but time is running out.

As it stands now, Illinois' medical marijuana program is only set to continue for another two and a half years, and sick people haven't even been able to legally buy cannabis yet.

Democratic Rep. Lou Lang says that wasn't his intent; he'd wanted the program to last twice that long. Lang blames a delay in Illinois awarding licenses to firms to grow and sell cannabis.

Andrey Saprykin iStockphoto

While the medical marijuana pilot program kicks off in Illinois - legislators are already considering a measure that would decriminalize owning some amount of the drug, and even growing several plants. It's part of an effort to rethink our criminal justice system and who we incarcerate. So says Michael Noland, a Democratic senator from Elgin. He spoke with Illinois Issues' Chris Steeples about the measure he sponsors:


BrettLevinPhotography / Flickr

Critics of Rep. Kelly Cassidy’s proposal to make possession of small amounts of marijuana a ticketable offense consider the bill a first step toward the state making possession of the drug legal.

House Bill 218, introduced by the Chicago Democrat, calls for possession of 30 grams of cannabis to be reduced to a civil — instead of criminal — offense, punishable by issuance of a ticket and a fine of up to $125.

BrettLevinPhotography / Flickr

Rep. Kelly Cassidy wants to change the criminal code for people caught with marijuana. Her proposal would reduce the punishment for having less than 30 grams of the drug from a Class C misdemeanor to a 100 dollar ticket.

Anyone caught with larger amounts would be charged with a misdemeanor, rather than a felony.

"This will allow for certainty and uniformity in the state. It will also allow us to save significant money at the state and the local level, and put our criminal justice resources to much better use," Cassidy said.

It's hard to find common ground between Gov. Pat Quinn and Republican businessman Bruce Rauner, but when it comes to decriminalizing marijuana, they're on the same page. Both have a stance that's well, hazy.

"It's worthy of looking at," Quinn said about the idea of reducing penalties for people caught with small amounts of pot."It's basically something I think the legislature should have hearings on. I think a lot of people should have input on. I do think that it's worthy of consideration."

Rahm Emanuel

  Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Tuesday called on state lawmakers to reduce penalties for drug possession.

  Two years ago, Chicago began allowing its police to issue tickets for possessing small amounts of pot, rather than immediately making an arrest.

Emanuel says the change is working: "We have seen about 4,100 fewer arrests in that area."


Illinois health officials are planning two public hearings on proposed rules affecting patients who want to use medical marijuana.  

The state's medical marijuana program is a four-year pilot project. The rules under consideration affect how adult patients with specific health conditions will be able to buy marijuana.  

Hearings will be held in Chicago and Springfield. The Chicago hearing will be at the Thompson Center starting at 9:30 a.m. May 5. The Springfield hearing will be on the University of Illinois Springfield campus at 9 a.m. May 21.

Last year, Illinois approved medical use of marijuana after years of debating the issue.   But could Illinois be closer to following the lead of some other states that have given the o-k to recreational use?   

Jamey Dunn 2014 / WUIS/Illinois Issues

On the federal level, marijuana is classified as a Schedule 1 controlled substance. Schedule 1 drugs are considered to have a high risk for causing dependency and no acceptable use as medication. Other drugs classified as Schedule 1 include LSD, heroin and ecstasy. 

Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

Colorado made history when it opened up licensed marijuana retail shops this year. Aside from just legalizing the purchase of smoke-able marijuana, it also means pot brownies have the potential to be big business. Food products infused with marijuana’s psychoactive ingredient, THC, are available in stores across the state.

Rep Lou Lang speaks at a press conference on his medical marijuana bill.
WUIS/Illinois Issues

After voting to reject medical marijuana legislation three times in previous years, the Illinois House approved a bill in April. Sponsor Rep. Lou Lang, a Skokie Democrat; worked to tighten the bill, which proponents call the most strictly regulated medical marijuana program in the country. “This bill is a very carefully drafted bill,” Gov. Pat Quinn said when he signed the legislation. He did not openly support the bill as it moved through the legislature but said he would keep an open mind if it reached his desk.