Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner on Friday used his veto powers to rewrite a bill aimed at decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana, saying the measure that lawmakers sent him would let people carry too much pot and sets fines too low. Sponsors of the bill pushed back, saying the changes are “low-hanging fruit” when it comes to reforming the criminal justice system and contending the governor is working against his own goal of reducing the number of prison inmates. Under the proposal, people caught with up to 15 grams of marijuana — about the equivalent of 25 cigarette-sized joints — would not go to court but instead receive fines ranging from $55 to $125.
Rauner said those standards were too lax and the threshold should be lowered to 10 grams and fines should range from $100 to $200. The governor also took issue with a provision that would loosen the state’s zero-tolerance policy for driving under the influence of cannabis. Currently, a driver can be charged if any trace of marijuana is detected, even if it was ingested days or weeks before and a driver showed no signs of impairment
The bill that lawmakers sent Rauner would have set new limits of 15 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood. Rauner again argued that standard went too far in the opposite direction, suggesting the limit instead should be 5 nanograms per milliliter of blood.
Sponsoring Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago, acknowledged science on that front is evolving and said she knew when the bill passed that lawmakers likely would have to revisit what levels of THC — the psychoactive component of marijuana — were acceptable when someone was behind the wheel.
Cassidy called Rauner’s partial veto “frustrating,” saying she made numerous changes during the negotiation process at the behest of Republican leaders who act as the governor’s liaisons