Lawmakers pass drug possession misdemeanor bill out of house

National News

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (NEXSTAR) — Illinois is one step closer to making the possession of certain amounts of hard drugs a misdemeanor instead of a felony.

A bill from Champaign representative Carol Ammons would make possession of up to three grams of heroin and fentanyl and five grams of cocaine a misdemeanor charge instead of a felony. The Illinois ACLU says the current way the state deals with drug possession does not help at all.

“What we’re doing is actually making things worse, it’s not helping people get better,” Ben Ruddell with the ACLU said. “And that’s why this bill is called reducing barriers to recovery, because that’s what the current system is. It’s a barrier.”

Advocates say the bill eliminates a roadblock to recovery for addicts, but police want to take another look at the amounts that are allowed because they are worried it will make life easier for drug dealers.

“These drug dealers out here on the street will take advantage of this bill, and they will start recruiting younger kids to deliver to people,” Taylorville Police Chief Dwayne Wheeler said.

Wheeler’s police department focuses on helping drug addicts get to treatment before they could get arrested. He says the state law does a good job of facilitating that as well, but he has a hard time classifying 3-5 grams as an amount for personal use.

“I have been working narcotics for years. Three grams is not personal use. That should be maybe 1 gram or below,” Wheeler said.

The bill will now go to the senate for a vote. If passed, minor drug possession charges can also be retroactively expunged.

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