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Marijuana could prove 1 point of agreement in Springfield

The Illinois legislature, controlled by the Democrats, is still in a tug of war with the governor over the state's budget. But there is apparent agreement forming around another significant issue -- the easing of criminal penalties for possession and use of marijuana.

According to word out of Springfield, the Senate recently approved a measure that would make possession of smaller amounts of marijuana a fine-worthy, rather than a jail-worthy offense. The legislation would also ease the current zero-tolerance policy for driving under the influence of marijuana. The bill, which reportedly has the Republican governor on the fence, now goes to the House for action.

That latter provision related to DUI is one that is raising concern in some quarters. Those with experience in dealing with the aftermath of accidents due to DUI for alcohol or drugs know that there is no way to confidently correlate the amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in a person's blood or saliva and impairment. That being the case, critics are leery of changing current law.

Right now, a driver in Illinois can be charged with DUI for marijuana if any trace of the drug is found in his or her system. It doesn't matter that ingestion might have occurred weeks earlier and there is no outward indication of impairment. Under the new proposal, levels of 5 nanograms of THC or more in the blood or 10 nanograms or more in saliva would be required to support a charge.

It's interesting to note that the measure now working its way through the General Assembly is one that has been modified to address concerns expressed by the governor. To date, it appears to have been enough to prompt the governor's office to say it is encouraged and continues to keep an eye the bill's progress.

What do you think of this measure? Could it make Illinois roads less safe?

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