An Illinois Bill Aims to Stop Car Searches Based on Smell
April 14, 2023 08:00 am ET
Estimated Read Time: 5 Minutes
Illinois, also known as the “Land of Lincoln,” is a state famous for many different things: its role in the Underground Railroad, the start of Route 66, the world’s largest ketchup bottle, the first McDonald’s in America, and the legendary Wrigley Field, to name a few. Something else Illinois is starting to become known for is cannabis.
The state offers both legal medical and adult-use recreational cannabis. Illinois legalized medical cannabis back in 2013. Legal recreational sales kicked off in the state on Jan. 1, 2020, during which more than 77,000 customers shelled out $3.2 million dollars buying cannabis from dispensaries across the state.
Illinois is also considered the first state in America to go the distance with positive cannabis reform, including the social equity-centric provisions. Lawmakers are currently working on passing a bill that would benefit cannabis consumers across the state and from other states.
SB 125 Aims to Stop Smell-Based Cannabis Searches
Authorities in Illinois might no longer be able to pull over people they suspect to be cannabis consumers. Currently, if you drive by a cop in Illinois and they believe you use cannabis, they can pull you over. Additionally, if you’re pulled over, and the cop smells cannabis in your vehicle, they can search it based on that fact alone. A proposed bill in Illinois, SB 125, could end this draconian practice. SB 125 would also change a law that requires you to keep cannabis in a smell-proof container.
The sponsor of SB 125, Sen. Rachel Ventura, told the media:
“People—especially people of color—are unnecessarily pulled over far too often. The odor of cannabis alone shouldn’t be one of those reasons. Cannabis is legal in Illinois and it’s a pungent scent that can stick to clothes for extended periods of time.”
If SB 125 is signed into law, authorities will not be able to conduct a search based on the smell of cannabis alone. Part of SB 125 reads:
“If a motor vehicle is driven or occupied by an individual 21 years of age or over, the odor of burnt or raw cannabis in a motor vehicle by itself shall not constitute probable cause for the search of the motor vehicle, vehicle operator, or passengers in the vehicle.”
Illinois Is Benefitting From Cannabis Revenue and Reform
Since recreational cannabis launched in the state of Illinois in 2020, it has seen a very successful run. In 2022 Illinois sold over $1.5 billion worth of adult-use cannabis and collected $445.3 million in tax revenue from cannabis sales. These tax dollars went to programs like awarding $45 million worth of grants to communities affected the worst by the failed war on drugs and $3.5 million for reducing violence via street intervention programs.
A majority of the funds brought in from cannabis tax revenue are fueled into funding mental health programs, housing programs, and legal aid in underserved communities, according to media reports. Media reports say that “arrests for marijuana-related crimes plummeted by a range of 63% and roughly 80% from 2015 to 2018 in the five largest suburbs — Aurora, Naperville, Elgin, Joliet and Waukegan.” This is great news to hear, especially since the state has a history of arresting people from communities of color.
The Chicago Tribune reported on the racial disparity of marijuana prohibition, saying, “Three times the number of African Americans were arrested for marijuana-related offenses in Chicago than other ethnicities combined in 2020, according to Chicago Police Department arrest totals retrieved under a Freedom of Information Act request.”
The ACLU reports that the state of Illinois holds the title for having the third-highest racial disparity in marijuana possession arrests among states, saying African Americans are 7.5 times more likely to be arrested than Caucasians. Seeing these arrest rates drop demonstrates the good that ending marijuana prohibition can do.
Current Cannabis Laws in Illinois
Current cannabis laws allow adult residents 21 and up in Illinois to possess no more than 30 grams of cured cannabis, 5 grams of concentrates, and no more than 500 milligrams of THC in a cannabis-infused product, such as a vape pen or edible. However, more than this amount can get you in a bit of trouble. More than 30 grams but less than 100 grams for your first offense is a misdemeanor charge with one-year incarceration and a max fine of up to $2,500. If you’re caught again, it’s a felony, and the incarceration time and fine increase.
Trafficking very small amounts of cannabis at 2.5 grams or less is considered a misdemeanor that carries six months of incarceration and a max fine of $1,500. When it comes to growing cannabis in Illinois, make sure you don’t grow more than five plants. Medical patients can grow five plants legally. However, recreational consumers who choose to grow at home can face a $200 max fine. More than five plants, though, and you’re looking at a felony charge with a minimum of 1 to 3 years of incarceration and a max fine of 25,000.
When you’re in Illinois, remember to enjoy cannabis responsibly. It may be legal, but only to a certain degree. Support lawmakers who support positive cannabis reform in Illinois and for the rest of America.
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