SPRINGFIELD, Ill. Marijuana possession in small amounts in Illinois will be punishable by fines but not jail time after Gov. Bruce Rauner signed legislation Friday that makes the state the third largest to decriminalize minor pot offenses.
The new law, which takes effect immediately, makes having 10 grams or less of marijuana will be a civil offense, punishable with a fine of up to $200. The Republican governor had been expected to sign the bill because it included language he requested after vetoing similar legislation last year. In his message to lawmakers at the time, Rauner said that existing penalties for petty marijuana offenses were too severe and that criminal prosecution of cannabis possession is also a drain on public resources.
The new law also sets a standard for whats considered too impaired to drive. Currently, any trace of marijuana is enough to be considered impaired, but marijuana advocates have long criticized zero-tolerance states approach because marijuana can stay in a persons system for several weeks. The new law makes the standard 5 nanograms of THC, marijuanas intoxicating chemical, in a drivers blood within two hours of consumption.
The Associated Press was first to report the bill signing. A state official with knowledge of the governors decision told the AP about the signing but spoke on the condition of anonymity because a formal announcement had not yet been made.
With Rauners signature, Illinois joins 16 other states, including New York and California, that have decriminalized marijuana possession in small amounts.
The governors office said Rauner would not be making a statement on the bill signing.
Police chiefs and sheriffs have expressed reservations about changing the law and worked with Rauner for weeks to prepare for its implementation. One police chief said hes concerned more people will have access to marijuana because of the change.
Youre giving individuals more opportunities for drug usage, said Laimutis Nargelenas, a former lobbyist for the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police and the current police chief for the Springfield Park District.
He said authorities are working on developing paperwork for traffic infractions to track how many people are driving high across the state because of the law change.
The sponsors of the bill praised Rauners action, saying the state should focus on punishing and treating people ...