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marijuana, decriminalization, Elgin criminal defense attorneyAs more states around the country are beginning to reconsider the criminal prosecution of low-level marijuana possession, the debate continues here in Illinois as well. Despite last year’s bipartisan efforts to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of the drug, the measure stalled when Governor Bruce Rauner took issue with limits that he found too permissive and fines that he thought were too lenient. The topic is now back under consideration by the state Senate as part of an omnibus bill which may see a vote as early as next month.

Lower Possession Threshold, Higher Fines

Compared to last year’s legislation, this year’s version is a little stricter. The bill proposes to make possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana—down from 15 grams—a civil offense, on par with a traffic violation. Last year, Governor Rauner thought the proposed fines of $55 to $125 to be too low, so the current measure would allow the financial penalties to range from $100 to $200, dependent upon the circumstances of the offense. The governor’s office has expressed its general approval regarding lawmakers’ cooperation with Rauner’s requests, and "will continue monitoring the legislation."

Expungements

Another major consideration in the bill is that it would allow local citation records regarding marijuana to be purged on an annual basis. Thus, offenders who were cited on separate occasions more than a year apart would not be treated as repeat offenders and thus subject to higher fines. Critics of this provision suggest that the expungement of possession records would make it very difficult to determine if a particular individual needs rehabilitation or substance abuse treatment in the event of future, more serious offenses.

Drugged Driving Limit

The proposed law would also, for the first time, establish a quantifiable standard for impairment related to driving under the influence. Currently, the state follows a zero-tolerance system which means that any trace of marijuana in a driver’s system—regardless of the fact that traces can remain for weeks after consumption—could be grounds for a DUI charge. If the omnibus is passed in its existing form, the legal limit would be set at 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood, a standard that experts say is roughly equivalent to the .08 percent blood-alcohol content limit in place for drunk driving situations.

Uncertain Future

While the legislation is part of a statewide effort to reduce the prison population and increase consistency in enforcing drug laws, it also has garnered a fair share of criticism. Many are concerned that decriminalization sends the wrong message about marijuana and that the proposed guidelines are still not strong enough. Even if the Senate approves the bill, it would still need to be approved in the House and be signed by the governor before it can take effect. For now, the outcome is decidedly undecided.

If you or a family member has been charged with drug possession under the current laws in Illinois, contact an experienced Elgin criminal defense attorney. We will help you understand your situation and work with you in exploring options for avoiding a criminal conviction. Call 847-488-0889 to schedule a free consultation at The The Law Office of Brian J. Mirandola today.

Source:

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/politics/ct-illinois-pot-decriminalization-20160325-story.html

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medical marijuana, Kane County criminal defense attorneyDespite taking nearly two years to get underway, the medical marijuana test program is off and running around Illinois. State officials are reporting that February was the program’s best month to date, with sales numbers approaching $1.5 last month. This brings total sales revenue to more than $4.4 million since the statewide program launched on November 9, 2015.

Increased Availability

When sales of medical marijuana first began in November, it started on a very small scale, with only a handful of registered dispensaries open for business. Today, the number of licensed retail outlets in the state has more than quadrupled, with 29 dispensaries now open, including two that just opened their doors in February. Most notably, one of the largest facilities in the state began operation in Springfield last month, making medical marijuana legally available in the state capital for the first time.

Growing Registration Lists

Joseph Wright, the director of the medical marijuana program—officially called the Illinois Medical Cannabis Pilot Program—announced that more than 3,000 individuals purchased products in February. He also indicated that about 4,800 patients have been approved for the program, meaning that only about 63 percent of registered users made purchases.

To qualify for participation, a patient must have been diagnosed with one of approximately three dozen medical conditions set forth in the law, including:

  • Cancer;
  • Glaucoma;
  • HIV or AIDS;
  • Hepatitis C;
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis;
  • Rheumatoid arthritis;
  • Muscular dystrophy;
  • Traumatic brain injury; and
  • Many more.

Several efforts over the last few months to add additional qualifying conditions to the approved list have been unsuccessful. Depending on the program’s perceived success, however, future consideration may be given to expanding the list.

Unlicensed Use Still a Crime

Along with the efforts to widen the participant base, initiatives in Springfield also sought to decriminalize minor marijuana possession, making the offense similar to a traffic ticket. While the bill did successfully pass the House and Senate, it was amended by Governor Bruce Rauner and sent back, essentially stalling the measure for now. This means that possession of marijuana without a valid medical marijuana registration card is against the law. Depending on the amount and your suspected intentions, potential penalties for a conviction can range from probation and fines up to significant prison terms.

If you have been arrested and charged with possession or distribution of marijuana, it is important to seek qualified legal counsel immediately. Contact an experienced Kane County criminal defense attorney today to explore your available options. Call 847-488-0889 for a free, confidential consultation at The The Law Office of Brian J. Mirandola today. Do not delay; your future may depend on it.

Sources:

http://stlouis.cbslocal.com/2016/03/01/illinois-medical-marijuana-sales-nearly-1-5m-in-february/

http://foxillinois.com/news/local/medical-marijuana-dispensary-opens-in-springfield-02-16-2016

http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs3.asp?ActID=3503

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marijuana, cannabis, Illinois Drug Crimes AttorneyAfter nearly two years of bureaucratic delays and litigation over licensing, Illinois finally seems poised to get its medical marijuana pilot program off the ground. Throughout the summer, approved cultivation centers have been preparing their first legally-produced crops in anticipation of harvesting them and making them available to dispensaries as early as this month. A company planning to get into the cultivation business, however, may be in hot water with the state over an announced public outreach campaign.

Public Marketing

Cresco Labs, while looking to open cultivation centers in Joliet, Kankakee, and Lincoln, recently unveiled marketing plans designed to spread the message regarding medical marijuana in print ads, billboards, radio spots, social media, and health publication notices. The more visual advertisements feature the shape of Illinois prominently with healthy lifestyle images, along with messages like "Welcome to a state of relief." The company logo is also present along with a referral to Cresco’s website for more information.

Possible Violation

According to state officials, growers of medical cannabis are not permitted to publically advertise in the state. Dispensaries are permitted to advertise within compliance with certain regulations, including proximity to schools and more, but cultivating centers are prohibited from doing by the Department of Agriculture. Rob Sampson, Cresco’s president, however, claims that the outreach campaign is not about promoting his company’s products. "[It] is about educating patients and doctors that there are new forms of medical relief in Illinois and directing them to our website to use as a portal for applying," he said. Sampson insists that the $1 million effort is to promote the state’s entire program, and therefore, within the regulatory guidelines.

Department of Agriculture spokesperson Rebecca Clark acknowledged that officials are aware of the ads, have seen them, and are currently considering options regarding enforcement. "The department may assess monetary fines or other conditions for rule violations," she said in an email.

Legal Help for Marijuana-Related Concerns

While some 3,000 medical marijuana applicants await the harvesting of the first legally-available crops, criminal charges for illegal marijuana possession are still very possible in Illinois. If you are facing any type of drug charge, contact an experienced Kane County criminal defense attorney. We will meet with you to discuss your case and explore all of your available options. Call 847-488-0889 to schedule your free initial consultation today.

Sources:

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-illinois-medical-marijuana-campaign-met-20150930-story.html

http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs3.asp?ActID=3503&ChapterID=35

http://stlouis.cbslocal.com/2015/10/01/ill-marijuana-ccompanys-1m-ad-campaign-draws-scrutiny/

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Posted on in Marijuana

marijuana, Illinois law, Kane County Criminal Defense AttorneyThe future of the debate over marijuana decriminalization in Illinois will soon be in the hands of Governor Bruce Rauner after a bill cleared the state Senate earlier this month. The proposed law would decriminalize low-level possession of marijuana in the state, making such possession punishable as a civil offense, similar to a traffic ticket. Possession of larger amounts, as well as the illegal production and trafficking of marijuana would remain prosecutable in the criminal system, but the law is seen by many as a reasonable approach to a contentious topic.

"Serious criminal penalties should be reserved for individuals who commit serious crimes," said Representative Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago, who introduced the in the state House earlier this year. "Criminalizing people for marijuana possession is not a good use of our state’s limited law enforcement resources." The bill was passed by the House in April, and was recently approved in the Senate by a vote of 37-19.

If enacted, the measure would make marijuana possession of 15 grams or less, which is approximately 25 cigarette-sized joints, a civil violation. Offenders would be subject to a fine of up to $125. Under current Illinois law, possession of marijuana, depending on the amount and an offender’s history, may be prosecuted as a misdemeanor or felony. The penalties associated with such charges, obviously, are much more significant than the fine proposed in the new measure.

The bill’s sponsor in the Senate, Senator Michael Noland, D-Elgin, has continued to push for the change, despite his own personal views on the use of the drug. "It’s wrong," he said, "and I would encourage the children of this state and my own children to abstain from the use of the substance." However, Senator Noland acknowledged that many people do use marijuana and that decision should not threaten their social or professional lives.

Supporters of the legislation believe that the proposal can help Governor Rauner in his efforts to reduce the prison population. Earlier this year, the governor announced his aim to cut the number of people in prison by 25 percent over the next decade. The bill, however, has not been sent to the governor’s office just yet, as sponsors indicate that some cleanup language will need to be approved before it is ready for Rauner’s signature. Governor Rauner has not indicated whether he intends to sign the measure, but through a spokesperson, pledged to consider it carefully.

If you have been charged with the possession of marijuana or any other drug, contact an experienced Illinois criminal defense attorney today. At the The Law Office of Brian J. Mirandola, we understand the impact that such charges can have on your future and are prepared to help you every step of the way.

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