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 what’s 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 person’s system for several weeks. The new law makes the standard 5 nanograms of THC, marijuana’s intoxicating chemical, in a driver’s blood within two hours of consumption.
With Rauner’s signature, Illinois joins 16 other states, including New York and California, that have decriminalized marijuana possession in small amounts.