Three Year Annivesary Of Illinois’ Medical Cannabis Pilot Program – Look How Far We’ve Come!

The path to happiness is not having what you want, but wanting (or at least being grateful for) what you have already. Illinois residents have a lot to be grateful for with regards to cannabis! In addition to the three year anniversary of the medical cannabis pilot program, this past Friday Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner signed Senate Bill 2228 into law which decriminalized possession of small amounts of cannabis. What was once an arrestable jailable offense, is now the equivalent of a parking ticket. Previously possession of cannabis was a criminal misdemeanor punishable by arrest and up to six months in jail and a $1,500 fine. Today 10 grams or less of cannabis in your possession would land you a civil fine of no more than $200, without any permanent marks on your criminal record. The key word is decriminalize, which by definition means to make something that was illegal then legal by means of legislation. So technically possession of cannabis not 100% totally legal with the fine remaining. Keep that in mind before rolling a 51 foot joint and marching it down Michigan Avenue. If you do, make sure it’s filled with air and not cannabis as the new law only applies to amounts less than 10 grams!

On a lighter note, the decriminalization of possession is even more reason to not eat your stash. In this case eating in the sense of making disappear, not eating as in consuming. Two Texas lawyers, Will Hutson and Chris Harris, wrote a fun song to help us remember the importance of not making a bad situation worse called “Don’t Eat Your Weed.” If you are stopped by the law, trying to destroy the cannabis in your possession will raise something on the level of a parking ticket to a Federal offense. As in permanently losing your right to vote, and likely facing an uphill battle trying to land a job. Please just be honest and respectful of the officer and the law and take the possession ticket, rather than end up with a Federal conviction on your record.

In addition to changing the penalties for possession, the new law also modified the limits which indicated intoxication for cannabis. The metaphorical line in the sand was relocated from totally absolute zero, to 5 nanongrams of THC in whole blood, or 10 nanograms of other bodily substances. To be clear the law specifically links the level of THC, and not THC-COOH, to intoxication. THC-COOH is the chemical our bodies convert THC into after it is metabolized, or processed. When you consume THC and feel high, your body actually has unmetabolized THC coursing through it, and you will not stop feeling high until it is all processed into THC-COOH. Since cannabinoids are fat soluble, meaning they dissolve in fat, these chemicals stick in the fatty deposits throughout your body. This the reason why you can fail a drug test for cannabis weeks after having last consumed, while other almost all other drugs will be totally out of your system within three days. There is a big difference between water-soluble and fat-soluble drugs when it comes to how long they stay in you body. So while you may fail your drug test for work with THC-COOH in your system weeks after having last consumed, you will not be considered intoxicated according to the law while you are driving to the testing center and back.

As you can see in the graphical depiction below, the amount of THC spikes immediately after use, and quickly falls as the body processes THC into THC-COOH. It looks to show about three hours for blood, and about four hours for saliva, until this patient would be considered sober by the standard of measured THC per the law. To be clear, if you feel intoxicated or are under the influence of any drug, you should not be driving a car or operating machinery.

THC-vs-THCCOOH-graph
Courtesy of California NORML

This change in cannabis law marks the three year anniversary of the medical cannabis program in Illinois. What a great way to celebrate the progress of cannabis! Look how far we have come! A mere three years ago, or about 1,095 days ago, Illinois forged a legal path for qualifying patients to obtain medical cannabis. Over the past three years Illinois residents have had a chance to see the chicken-little like anti-cannabis proponents proven wrong. The sky has not fallen, anarchy has not broken out, and there has not been a tidal wave of crime and addiction as a result of allowing qualified patients access to medical cannabis. The negative stigma which sticks to cannabis is losing its power with each passing day. Every time a patient in Illinois shares how cannabis helps them, people who associate nothing but negativity with cannabis are forced to recalibrate their mental understanding of the plant. Today our program has over 8,000 patients enrolled, and each and every single one is a shining example of how cannabis has medical value.

What are your thoughts about the last three years in Illinois? What do you think about the progress of the medical cannabis pilot program in Illinois? Please tell us what you think in the comments below or on Facebook!

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Illinois On The Brink Of Cannabis Decriminalization

Recently the Chicago Tribune reported the Illinois legislature sent a new bill to Governor Bruce Rauner, after being passed by both the Illinois House and Senate. If Rauner signs the landmark bill it will decriminalize small amounts of cannabis in Illinois. The change being that offenders with small amounts will not be arrested, but ticketed and fined, with their records automatically being expunged twice a year. In contrast the current situation today as “possession of up to 10 grams is a class B misdemeanor that could result in up to six months in jail and fines of up to $1,500.” A similar bill was vetoed last year by Rauner, but his feedback was incorporated into this year’s bill which has many hopeful for his signature this time around. Rauner’s feedback was was to lower the decriminalized limit from 15 grams to 10 grams, and the max fine increased from $125 to $200. Seems more like typical politics in action rather than a genuine disagreement in policy or principles.

illinois-marijuana-cannabis-legal-intoxication-limit

The new law would also redraw the line for cannabis intoxication while driving. As discussed in a previous blog post in detail, drivers in Illinois currently are held to a zero-tolerance standard, as the presence of any amount of cannabis in the blood, urine, or saliva constitutes intoxication. The Trib reminds us that “a driver can be charged if any trace of marijuana is detected, even if it was ingested weeks before and the driver shows no signs of impairment.” The new law defines cannabis intoxication as a measured level above 5ng/mL in blood, and 10ng/mL in saliva. While these limits should not be the only qualification of intoxication, as reflected by AAA’s research, they are better than zero.

If you think Governor Rauner should sign the decriminalization bill then contact him today and let him know! Tell us your thoughts on this new bill in the comments below or on Facebook!

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