Bill to decriminalize marijuana on governor’s desk

Nationwide, one person is arrested for marijuana possession every second, but Illinois lawmakers are looking to decriminalize the drug.

While marijuana is often compared to alcohol, the Drug Enforcement Administration classifies it as a Schedule 1 narcotic similar to heroin and LSD.

Despite strict federal laws, 17 states have decriminalized the drug, and now Illinois is hoping to make possession of anything under 15 grams a citation. The bill sits on Gov. Bruce Rauner’s desk. 

After 19 years in law enforcement, West Frankfort Police Chief Shawn Talluto says it’s become a common sight for officers.

“A lot of people are casual users of marijuana,” Talluto said.

The difficult choice is if they should make an arrest for the drug.

“A conviction for marijuana possession on the books is going to follow a person around indefinitely,” Talluto said. “It can hamper jobs, it can hamper social events, and things that that person may apply for, for minuscule amounts.”

“The reality is we’ve got a crisis,” said Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner. “We have a pension crisis, we have a debt and deficit crisis, we have a facilities crisis and we’ve got to fix the crisis.”

“It’s like alcohol which is legal, but it causes problems,” Talluto said. “It’s going to be critical for amounts because if you do stop someone who legally possesses marijuana or illegally possesses marijuana you’re going to have to make that determining factor on the streets.”

Because THC,  the chemical responsible for marijuana’s effects, stays in your system longer than alcohol, Talluto says lawmakers must clean up the language as to how to police marijuana stops.

Rauner says he won’t decide on decriminalizing marijuana until a state budget is passed.

About 100 communities in Illinois, including Chicago, give police latitude to issue tickets instead of arresting those with small amounts.

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