Republican Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner made changes to two state bills involving marijuana on Friday via amendatory vetoes.
One of the bills looks to make possession of 15 grams or less of marijuana an offense punishable by a $55 to $125 fine in the state. Using his veto authority, Rauner decreased the amount of marijuana someone could possess to 10 grams and increased the fines to between $100 and $200.
The governor said he backed the "fundamental purposes" of the measure, but said that this type of adjustment to drug policy "must be made carefully and incrementally."
State Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago) sponsored the pot decriminalization measure. The lawmaker said Rauner's move to amend the bill is frustrating, as the measure took into account feedback from the administration as well as Republican legislative leaders.
"Real progress was a pen stroke away, but instead I stand here today shocked. The difference between 10 and 15 grams is measured in people arrested and lives disrupted," Cassidy wrote in a "guest view" post on Reboot Illinois. "Our criminal justice system is supposed to be about making us safer. The governor's changes in this area will not make our communities safer, but will instead just put more people into our jails and prisons that don't need to be there."
Rauner amended another bill that sought to lengthen the state's medical marijuana program, which is currently scheduled to run for four years and come to an end in January 2018. The bill would have allowed the four-year window for the program to start when the first medical marijuana dispensary begins operation this year. Rauner, however, tweaked the bill to extend the medical marijuana program by four months, saying that such an extension "would account for the delay in the final months of the prior administration."
"Given that no sale has yet occurred and we have not had an opportunity to evaluate the success and failure of the pilot program, a further extension would be premature," Rauner said in his veto letter.
State Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie) spearheaded the medical marijuana measure in the legislature. He said extending the program by four years would help patients and medical marijuana businesses that are just starting up their operations.
"My concern when I got into this was to help patients, and I don't think the governor's actions today do much to help patients," the lawmaker told the Chicago Tribune.
The bills with the governor's changes go back to state lawmakers for consideration.