Governor Open To Decriminalizing Pot Possession, But Says Lawmakers Need To Get Heads On Straight

May 20, 2016

Republican Governor Bruce Rauner is open to decriminalizing marijuana.

Rauner has a goal of reforming the criminal justice system. One way to do that, advocates say: issuing civil penalties for low-level drug charges.

Like legislation on the way to the governor's desk.

People caught with 10 grams of pot or less would get a citation, and have to pay a fine of up to $200.

Rauner says he's probably comfortable with it: It incorporates suggestions he made when he vetoed a similar measure last year. Still, he refrained from promising to sign it into law.

"I've got to see what ... the bill's coming, I've been a little distracted with economic issues ... and frankly more important issues. We in Illinois tend to get ... caught up in what our state pie is going to be and how much marijuana's going to get sold," he said Thursday. Rauner says lawmakers need to "get their head on straight and do stuff that matters."

The Illinois House approved the legislation today, and the Senate followed on Thursday.

As it stands now, sponsor Rep. Kelly Cassidy says Illinois has a patchwork, in which each city handles pot possession differently, with various ordinances "that permit some people to get tickets for very low level possession, some people to get arrested."

Cassidy, a Chicago Democrat, says her legislation will create a threshold "under which arrest is not an option. Tickets would be the way to go."