Across the country, the laws involving marijuana seem to be constantly changing. An increasing number of states have legalized marijuana for both medical and recreational use, and many cities and states, including Illinois, have “decriminalized” the possession of small amounts of pot even though it is not “legal.” But it is important to understand that there are still consequences to cannabis possession in Illinois, especially if you are caught holding a large quantity or charged with possession with intent to distribute.
If you are charged with marijuana possession in Chicago or elsewhere in Illinois, you need to understand your legal rights and the potential penalties you face before you decide how to proceed. Speaking with an experienced Chicago drug crime defense attorney can help you ensure that your future is protected and keep you from making a mistake that could make your situation worse.
What “Decriminalization” Means
“Decriminalized” does not mean the same as “legal.” Unless you hold a valid medical marijuana card, the possession of any amount of pot is against the law in Illinois. What decriminalization does mean is that possession of 10 or fewer grams of marijuana is no longer a criminal offense. Rather, it is a civil offense akin to a traffic ticket.
As with traffic tickets, you will receive a citation advising you of your fine and/or whether you need to appear in a municipal court. The fine for possession of 10 grams or less of pot can be up to $200. Failure to pay your fine or appear in court as ordered can subject you to further penalties.
Keep in mind that even though possession of small amounts of marijuana has been decriminalized, if you take even one hit of a joint in view of the public, you are committing a Class B misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $250 and a maximum sentence of 90 days in jail.
While these penalties may not seem like a big deal, the offense can still have an impact on employment or other opportunities, regardless of “decriminalization.” If you believe you were mistakenly, wrongfully, or unfairly cited for possession, taking the “easy way” out by paying the fine or admitting to the offense may not be so easy in the long-run.
More Than 10 Grams and You Could Face Significant Time Behind Bars
If you are caught with more than 10 grams of pot, “decriminalization” means very little. The penalties you face will be hefty and can include jail time. How hefty and how long you spend in jail will depend on the amount of marijuana you are charged with possessing:
- Between 11 and 30 grams: A Class A Misdemeanor with up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500.
- Between 31 and 500 grams: A Class 4 Felony with a possible prison sentence of 1 to 3 years.
- Between 501 and 2000 grams: A Class 3 Felony, punishable by a possible sentence of 2 to 5 years in state prison.
- Between 2001 and 5000 grams: A Class 2 Felony, punishable by a prison sentence of 3 to 7 years.
- More than 5000 grams: A Class 1 Felony, punishable by a possible prison sentence of 4 to 15 years.
Having larger (but not necessarily “large”) quantities of pot that suggest it wasn’t for personal use can lead to an inference that you intended to sell or deliver it to others. The penalties for possession with intent to deliver are severe.
Call Wigell Law Group Today to Discuss Your Marijuana Possession Charges
For over four decades, the Chicago drug crime defense attorneys at Wigell Law Group have provided effective, holistic defense representation for those charged with marijuana possession and related offenses. Don’t make the mistake of assuming you won’t face significant consequences because your charges involve “just” pot.
Call Wigell Law Group today to schedule your free consultation or use our online contact form. Don’t let your freedom, your future or your rights be taken away from you without a fight.