Local law enforcement and lawmakers debate over decriminalizing - WREX.com – Rockford’s News Leader

Local law enforcement and lawmakers debate over decriminalizing pot


A new legislation headed to Governor Rauner's desk would decriminalize marijuana. A person caught with 15 grams or less of marijuana would receive a fine rather than go to jail.

Some state lawmakers agree that a fine is the better option over jail time. However, some people who enforce the law don't agree.

"Am I absolutely happy about this bill absolutely not, but we should not be sending people to jail for small amounts of marijuana when we have so many other major problems going on," said state Rep. John Cabello, 68th District.

Cabello voted in favor of the legislation he says not only will this direct police attention to more serious crimes but also save taxpayers money.

"We're trying to be good stewards of the taxpayers but also being smart on crime," said Cabello. "Let's put people in jail for a reason that warrants being put in jail."

However, Winnebago County State's Attorney Joe Bruscato argues this will only increase the use of marijuana. He predicts his office would see an increase in the number of cases related to marijuana.

"Some people may view this as well, I'm a little more willing to test the law because right now the worst that can happen to me is a fine I'll just go ahead and take that risk," said Bruscato.

Deputy Chief Mark Karner with the Winnebago County Sheriff's Department is also against the legislation. He says marijuana is a dangerous, addictive drug and a ticket won't stop people from using.

"There has to be an institutional incentive to make people not want to buy and try marijuana," said Karner. "So when counseling and sincere attempts at rehabilitation have failed jail, unfortunately is an alternative and the only alternative."

It's up to Governor Rauner whether to change the punishment for possessing small amounts of marijuana. He hasn't said whether he plans to sign it.

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