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Chicago Possession of Marijuana Defense Lawyer

Marijuana Possession Penalties

In Illinois, it is considered a felony offense to possess any illicit controlled substance, such as opiates, cocaine, methamphetamine, regardless of the amount. Even a miniscule amount of any of these scheduled controlled substances, if possessed, will result in felony charges. The only exception to that is Cannabis, also known as Marijuana.

Compared to penalties for controlled substances, penalties for cannabis are generally less severe. In response to the recent developments within the scientific and medical communities regarding the medical uses of cannabis (marijuana) to treat any number of physical or psychological disorders (including, most recently, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD), the Illinois Legislature revamped much of the law in Illinois as it pertains to possession and use of the drug (the laws regarding the trafficking of, or manufacture, delivery, or possession with intent to distribute cannabis outside of the recognized medical marijuana network of distributors are unchanged for the most part).

Misdemeanor and Felony Penalties for Marijuana

In the past, possession of even a tiny amount of marijuana was still considered a misdemeanor offense which carried potential jail penalties. Under new law, possession of an amount less than or equal to 10 grams is a petty offense punishable by a fine of $100 to $200. Basically, this penalty is less severe than what one might ordinarily face for a routine traffic ticket, such as disobeying a traffic control device, or speeding. Under this cannabis law, you will be issued a citation that looks like a traffic ticket, and it will have information on how you can either pay, or request a hearing. If you request such a hearing, unlike in a criminal case, evidence of the drug may be presented by either a "properly administered field test" (which is a non-confirmatory ‘preliminary’ screen only), or by the opinion testimony of a peace officer based upon the officer’s training and experience as qualified by the court.

In circumstances, however, where the weight of the cannabis exceeds 100 grams, the penalties increase into what are known as felonies. The higher the weight, the higher the penalties climb. All these penalties are contained in what is called the Cannabis Control Act of the Illinois Compiled Statutes.

An amount more than 10 grams, but less than or equal to 30 grams, is a class B misdemeanor, which carries a maximum penalty of up to 6 months in jail, a fine up to $1,500, or both. More than 30 but not more than 100 grams is a class A misdemeanor; the maximum sentence is up to 364 days in jail, a fine up to $2,500, or both. Over 100 grams, but not more than 500 grams, is now a class 4 felony, unless it is a subsequent offense, then it is a class 3 felony. More than 500 but not more than 2,000 grams is a class 3 felony, and more than 2,000 grams but not more than 5,000 grams (11 pounds) is a class 2 felony. Oddly, there is no penalty listed for possession of more than 5,000 grams. Perhaps because the legislature determined that no one needs to possess more than 11 pounds for personal use only.

But it's not only the weight of the cannabis that determines the penalties when charged in Chicago or any other Illinois city. Penalties become higher and higher still when it is alleged that the defendant possessed the drug with the intention to manufacture or deliver (meaning to sell) the drug to another person. Some of the other circumstances under which penalties are enhanced include selling cannabis on or near school grounds, bringing cannabis into the state with the intent to sell it (called trafficking), delivering the drug to a person under the age of 18, growing cannabis sativa plants, or taking part in what is called a "calculated criminal cannabis conspiracy".

Cannabis Sale, Delivery & Manufacture

As for the manufacture, delivery, or possession with intent to deliver cannabis, those penalties remain unchanged, with respect to the following penalty structure:

  • Not more than 2.5 grams - Class B Misdemeanor
  • More than 2.5 but not more than 10 grams - Class A Misdemeanor
  • More than 10 but not more than 30 grams - Class 4 Felony
  • More than 30 but not more than 500 grams - Class 3 Felony, fine up to $50,000
  • More than 500 but not more than 2,000 grams - Class 2 Felony, fine up to $100,000
  • More than 2,000 but not more than 5,000 grams - Class 1 Felony, fine up to $150K
  • More than 5,000 grams - Class X Felony, fine up to $200,000

When someone is charged with a Class X Felony, it does not allow for the possibility of probation, conditional discharge, periodic imprisonment, or any form of relief from incarceration. The mandatory prison term is not less than 6 years, and not more than 30 years.

Cannabis Trafficking

As one can see, there are still significant penalties for dealing in marijuana. Because marijuana is often imported into Illinois from outside States or Countries in large quantities for distribution within Illinois, the Illinois legislature enacted the Cannabis Trafficking statute. One commits “Cannabis Trafficking” by knowingly bringing (or causing to be brought) into Illinois for the purpose of manufacture or delivery or with the intent to manufacture or deliver 2,500 grams or more of cannabis. If found guilty, a person faces fines and a mandatory prison term that is within double the range of the sentence for violations of the same amounts if not brought across State lines for distribution. This means that someone convicted of trafficking 2,500 grams up to 5,000 grams faces a prison term between 8 to 30 years and a fine up to $300,000; someone convicted of 5,000.01 grams or more faces 12 to 60 years and a fine up to $400,000.

Sale of Cannabis Near a School

The law also treats harshly anyone that delivers, possesses with intent to deliver, or manufactures cannabis on any school grounds, or within 1,000 feet of the real property of any school, or school bus. While a small quantity (2.5 grams or less) is still only a Class A misdemeanor, as the amounts increase, the seriousness of the felony increases. Make no mistake, if drugs are sold anywhere near a school, police will take a measuring tape device and walk out the most direct route to the school grounds to get it within that 1,000 feet. The school doesn’t even have to be in session, or even still be open as a school for this enhancement to apply. If a person over the age of 18 sells cannabis to anyone who is at least three years younger, even if it does not happen on or near school grounds, he or she will still face enhanced penalties and may be sentenced to imprisonment for up to twice the maximum term otherwise applicable.

New Laws Relating to Driving Under the Influence

In conjunction with recent changes to the Cannabis Control Act decriminalizing 10 grams or less of the drug, the legislature was also forced to come to terms with the enforcement problems of drivers who are pulled over and arrested for driving under the influence of cannabis. In the past, any amount of cannabis at all detected in the driver’s blood or urine was sufficient to convict a driver of this traffic offense. But under new laws enacted, a certain concentration limit (measureable in nanograms) of Tetrahydrocannabinol was established. So no longer is it a guaranteed conviction if a driver has cannabis detected in his or her system while driving.

Contact a Knowledgeable Chicago Marijuana Possession Attorney Today

Regardless of the level of crime, an arrest for cannabis is serious and may have wide-ranging consequences for your future. The Chicago drug crime lawyers of Mitchell S. Sexner & Associates LLC are experienced criminal advocates, many of whom are former assistant state's attorneys and prosecutors. Our lawyers will carefully explore whether motions can be filed to dismiss the charges or to win at a trial. But in circumstances where a motion or trial is not advised, our lawyers can also try to negotiate a deal that prevents the charge from permanently appearing on your criminal record (rap sheet). Depending on the particular cannabis charge, a non-conviction sentence such as supervision, a deferred prosecution or a special probation may be available to help protect your future. Call today at (800) 996-4824 for free information and to see how we can help you.

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