Last Update: June 26, 2014

Gov. Quinn considers bill to add seizure conditions to medical cannabis program

SB 2636, sponsored by Sen. Iris Martinez and Rep. Lou Lang, passed both houses and is currently awaiting Gov. Pat Quinn’s signature. This important bill would add seizure conditions to the list of qualifying medical conditions for medical cannabis for both minors and adults. The bill was overwhelmingly approved by both the House and Senate. Please ask Gov. Quinn to sign the bill into law, which would also make it possible for other minors to qualify for medical marijuana.

In addition, three bills were presented to lawmakers this year that would either remove or reduce criminal penalties for those found in possession of up to 30 grams of cannabis. HB 5708 would not only allow people to avoid arrest or jail time, but completely eliminate any criminal record — which can hurt employment, housing, public assistance, and educational opportunities. Two other bills, HB 4299 and HB 4091, would significantly lower penalties and allow people to avoid arrest or jail, but would still leave individuals with damaging criminal records. All three bills have been kept active and may be considered further later this year.

For a detailed analysis of how a criminal record can have far-reaching effects for Illinois residents, check out our report, Marked for Life: Collateral Sanctions Associated with Marijuana Offenses in Illinois. For a new report on how a patchwork of local decriminalization laws are being implemented, or in some cases, aren't being implemented, check out this report from Roosevelt University. Please also ask your legislators to support imposing a civil fine on cannabis possession.

Meanwhile, Rep. Kelly Cassidy is fostering a conversation about broader reform. She introduced HB 6270, which would create a Cannabis Legalization Task Force to examine issues related to cannabis legalization and develop legislation to tax and regulate marijuana for adults 21 and over in Illinois.

Medical marijuana implementation, possible expansion moving forward

Illinois’ new medical marijuana law went into effect on January 1, and the Department of Public Health, Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, and the Department of Agriculture have already issued draft agency rules for their oversight of the patient registry. Unfortunately, patients will not have any legal protections or safe access to their medicine for some time. A quick summary of the new law is here, with a more detailed analysis here. A two-page analysis designed specifically for prospective patients to share with physicians is also available for download. The state established a webpage to keep followers informed on the latest updates and copies of the different agencies' draft rules. The page also offers the ability for individuals to sign up for email notifications on progress.

Illinois arrests tens of thousands of marijuana users each year

Despite the new medical marijuana law, Illinois' marijuana penalties remain harsh, and the state has the fifth highest arrest rate for marijuana possession in the nation. Penalties range from jail sentences of up to 30 days and a fine of up to $1,500 for possession of less than 2.5 grams of marijuana (about one-tenth of an ounce) to upwards of three years in prison and up to $25,000 in fines for possession of more than 30 grams. A study by the ACLU found that there were nearly 50,000 marijuana possession arrests in Illinois in 2010, and despite similar marijuana use rates, blacks are 7.6 times as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession in Illinois as whites.

Meanwhile, 75% of Chicago murders went unsolved in 2012. Some cities provide relief to Illinois’ high penalties by giving officers the option to cite offenders and punish possession of small amounts with a fine only. In June 2012, Chicago joined that list when Mayor Emmanuel approved an ordinance allowing officers to cite those in possession of 15 grams or less. Violators in the Windy City face fines of $200-500 if they are charged under city — not state — law. Results of these programs are mixed, however, and the law is not being applied equally around the state according to the Roosevelt University report.

If you were arrested for the possession of a modest amount of marijuana and might be interested in speaking out, please email

Stay Connected

Thank you for supporting the Marijuana Policy Project and all of our allies. Please subscribe to our free legislative alert service to receive updates on marijuana policy reform efforts in Illinois.







   Please leave this field empty