On July 29, 2016, Republican Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner signed SB 2228, removing criminal penalties for possession of 10 grams or less of cannabis. Rauner’s signature makes Illinois the 21st state to decriminalize possession of small amounts of cannabis. The new law also eliminates zero tolerance penalties for driving under the influence of cannabis. Drivers will now be subject to DUI charges only if they exceed five or more nanograms of THC in their blood, or ten or more nanograms in their saliva. The changes do not apply to those holding commercial driver’s licenses. Illinois’ new law also does not supersede existing local decriminalization ordinances in Chicago and other cities.
In July 2016, Gov. Rauner also signed a two-year extension in the Illinois Medical Cannabis Pilot program which would extend the program through at least July 2020. PTSD was recently added as a qualifying condition.
Wisconsin has failed to pass cannabis decriminalization on a statewide basis despite a number of attempts dating back to the 1970s and as recently as the 2015-2016 legislative session. Wisconsin also has the same kind of zero tolerance per se DUI law, the 2004 “Baby Luke” law, that Illinois has now repealed, with any detectable amount of cannabis metabolites in the bloodstream considered evidence of impairment.
A recent Marquette Law School Poll found 59% support among Wisconsinites for regulating cannabis like alcohol. Meanwhile, Wisconsin’s marijuana laws, basically unchanged since the early 1970s, continue to be the most draconian among Midwestern states in cases involving simple possession of small amounts of cannabis, with second offense possession of any amount a state felony.
A patchwork of local ordinances means that depending purely on location, a first, second or subsequent offense might land a ticket, or state misdemeanor or felony charges.
It is very likely Wisconsin will see decriminalization legislation again introduced in the 2017-2018 session, but unless some new faces are elected to the legislature this November, it is unlikely any pot-friendly bills can get passed, much less get a public hearing. And Gov. Scott Walker, who has been very hostile to any cannabis law reform unlike his Illinois GOP colleague Gov. Rauner, is unlikely to sign off on any reforms. Walker would be up for election for a third term in Nov. 2018, should he choose to run again. But with polling now showing Wisconsinites virtually tied in supporting cannabis legalization with California, which is at 60% support, this clearly is an issue that is not going away.