Marijuana May Be a Gateway Drug in IL, But Not the Way You Think
Illinois legalized marijuana for adult personal use in 2019, but for many advocates, it simply doesn’t go far enough. Many are hopeful that in this case, marijuana could be the gateway drug law needed to decriminalize harsh drug penalties throughout the state.
Why do they want less harsh drug laws in the state? Because minority communities are suffering the brunt of overly harsh and ineffective drug laws and punishments.
Here’s what you need to know about the current drug possession laws in Illinois and the impact they’re having on different communities within the state.
The Impact on Minority Communities
So, how significant is the impact of harsh drug possession laws on minority communities? Take a look at just a few of these statistics from The Huffington Post:
- 56 percent of the drug offenders in Illinois state prisons are African American, even though they represent only 15 percent of the overall state population
- Black men are 13 times more likely to be sent to state prisons than white men
- Black people are more likely to be stopped by police, detained prior to trial, and sentenced more harshly than white counterparts for the same crime
- Since 1980 over 25 million Americans have been arrested on drug charges and about one-third of them have been black
Legalizing and decriminalizing marijuana has been found to reduce arrest rates overall for both possession and sales, which is why so many advocates want the state to go beyond the new marijuana laws and include more relaxed drug laws and penalties.
Drug Possession in Illinois
Unlawful possession of controlled substances in Illinois falls into two distinct categories:
- Possession of a control analog or substance
- Possession of analog or substance with the intent to deliver or manufacture
In order for someone to be charged with drug possession, prosecutors must prove:
- What drug the defendant was in possession of
- That the defendant knowingly possessed it
- The substance was in their immediate and exclusive control
Penalties for Drug Possession in Illinois
In Illinois, the charges and penalties for drug possession are dependent upon what drug a person is found in possession much along with the quantity.
Heroin possession in Illinois is a Class 1 felony, punishable by fines to as much as $200,000 and a prison sentence of between 4 and 50 years, depending on how much of the drug you are found in possession of.
Possession of cocaine is also a Class 1 felony. If found guilty, fines of up to $200,000 can be assessed and a prison sentence of between 4 and 50 years can be given.
This is a Class 1 felony as well that can result in fines of up to $200,000 and a prison sentence between 4 and 50 years, depending on the weight of drugs in possession at the time of the arrest.
Salts/Barbituric Acid Possession
This is a Class 1 felony if found with 200 grams or more, punishable by up to 15 years in prison and fines up to $25,000.
A Class 1 felony when found in possession of more than 200 grams, punishable by up to 15 years in prison and fines up to $25,000.
Another Class 1 felony, being found guilty can result in a prison sentence of up to 50 years and fines up to $200,000.
If found with 200 grams or more of amphetamines, a Class 1 felony can be charged resulting in fines up to $200,000 and a prison sentence up to 15 years.
As you can see, drug possession crimes are quite harsh. It is the hope that the new marijuana laws are paving the way for better, more equitable drug laws in Illinois in the future.
About the Author:
Andrew M. Weisberg is a former felony prosecutor who now serves as a defense attorney in the greater Chicago area. He has extensive experience in handling all types of criminal cases, from sex offenses and domestic violence to retail theft-related crimes, murder, and drug crimes. His work has been recognized by Avvo, Expertise, National Trial Lawyers, and others, and he has been featured on countless news outlets for his experience and knowledge in criminal law.