Marijuana Laws Continue to Drive Conversation in Illinois

Marijuana Laws Continue to Drive Conversation in Illinois

Marijuana laws have become much-debated issues among Illinois lawmakers and candidates for office.  Legislators recently approved a bill that allows medical marijuana to be used in place of prescription painkillers and also eliminates requirements for patients to get fingerprints and criminal background checks. While this would make it easier to possess marijuana legally, Governor Bruce Rauner is against the expansion of medical marijuana, and it is still possible for someone to be arrested for a marijuana crime.

If you have been charged with a crime involving marijuana or any other drug in Illinois, your could wind up with a criminal record that will negatively impact your life.  Due to the seriousness and complexity of Illinois criminal law, it is essential to get top-notch legal assistance. The experienced Illinois criminal defense lawyers at Wolfe & Stec, Ltd. are skilled trial lawyers who believe each case is unique, with its own set of circumstances and requirements; we will work with you to mount the most effective defense possible.  We offer a free consultation, so call or contact us online if you have been accused of any drug charges.

What is the Law in Illinois?

Illinois regulates drugs under 720 ILCS 570, the Controlled Substances Act. Hard drugs, such as cocaine and heroin, typically result in felony charges, but laws on marijuana are much more lax. Possession of less than 2.5 grams of marijuana is a class C misdemeanor, punishable by a fine. Possession charges increase according to amount involved, to as high as a class 2 felony for more than 5,000 grams. Punishment also increases for subsequent offenses and for sale and trafficking.

Medical marijuana is a different story, as the substance is allowed for eligible patients who have a doctor’s recommendation and who have registered with the state. The Illinois medical cannabis program has been extended until at least July 2020, and both PTSD and terminal illness have been added as qualifying medical conditions.

In Illinois, employers may not refuse to hire or discharge an employee for possessing a medical marijuana card. Employers who inquire about medical marijuana use during the interview process could be accused of requesting health-related information in formulating a decision not to hire.

Changes in Legislative Attitudes

Marijuana laws are rapidly changing all over the country, with a trend toward decriminalization. Recreational use is legalized in many states, including:

Illinois now has a medical cannabis pilot program which began sales in 2015 and is scheduled to expire in mid-2020. Under proposed laws to expand medical marijuana, new applicants with doctor’s orders would be able to buy from licensed dispensaries without the current waiting period of up to four months. Patients could no longer be denied based on criminal convictions, which would eliminate bottlenecks due to having to take fingerprints and do background checks before approval. Currently in Illinois there are only about 37,000 licensed users of medical marijuana, compared with 8 million opioid prescriptions that were filled in the state in 2015.

Many legislators believe that allowing medical marijuana to be used in place of prescription painkillers is a way of addressing the opioid crisis. According to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly half a million people in the U.S. died of opioid-related overdoses between 2000 and 2014, with more than 11,000 fatalities since 2008 in Illinois. There are no reported deaths from an overdose of marijuana, and states that have legalized medical marijuana report fewer prescriptions for opioids issued and fewer opioid overdose deaths.

Governor Rauner has opposed most expansion of medical marijuana, despite the fact that the measure passed the legislature with broad bipartisan support, and he has opposed a separate bill to legalize, tax and regulate recreational marijuana. His Democratic opponent, J.B. Pritzker, favors legalized cannabis and expansion of medical marijuana to patients who need it as an alternative to opioids.

There now two significant medical cannabis bills in the Illinois legislature. Senate Bill 336 would allow those who could be prescribed opioid medication to be eligible for medical marijuana, and HB 4870 would allow those attending school to get limited access to non-smoked forms of medical cannabis.

The Illinois General Assembly has also approved allowing the state to license the cultivation and processing of industrial hemp — the cannabis sativa plant that has less than 0.3 percent THC, the chemical which gets users high.

The majority of the public supports legalization of marijuana. In 2018, 66% of voters in Illinois support a legalization program that taxes and regulates the substance for adults the way it is done for alcohol.

Put Your Trust In Us — Contact Wolfe & Stec, Ltd. for a Free Consultation.

Although laws regulating marijuana are changing, a marijuana conviction could still cost you your job, public embarrassment, and even result in a jail or prison sentence.

If you have been charged with marijuana or any other drug crime in Illinois, you need to hire the best criminal defense attorney that you can find. The experienced and seasoned Illinois criminal defense attorneys at Wolfe & Stec, Ltd. will examine the facts, the individuals involved, and the evidence available in every situation.  We work with our clients throughout the criminal process to come up with an effective defense strategy and determine whether to take a case to trial. Our goal is always to minimize the negative impact of the situation and to focus on protecting your freedoms, liberties, rights, and your ability to find employment.

We are aggressive litigators and will answer all your questions and make sure you fully understand the facts surrounding your case.  We represent clients in DuPage County, Naperville, Aurora, Wheaton, Downers Grove and Bolingbrook, and the greater Chicagoland area.

Delaying can only make your situation worse, so call or contact us online today to schedule your free initial consultation.

Attorney Marc Wolfe

Marc Wolfe has been representing clients in criminal matters in Chicago and the entire State of Illinois for over 30 years. Mr. Wolfe has tried over 300 cases to verdict and represents clients facing investigation or prosecution for a broad range of state and federal criminal offenses, including murder, embezzlement, sexual abuse, drugs, marijuana and white collar crimes. [ Attorney Bio ]