Delegates Move to Decriminalize Drugs
By: Ellie Ford
Georgia Shwaiko, a Carmel Catholic High School legislator, is proposing bill H-B-08 to decriminalize drug use, although the sale and manufacturing of drugs would remain illegal.
Those caught with illicit substances would be evaluated by health professionals, then referred to rehabilitation centers. Those that refuse treatment would be mandated to service hours assigned to each drug class.
In order to fund the bill, the legislator proposes redirecting 20% of the current funding for Illinois prisons to rehabilitation centers and services. Citing a 2015 Illinois State Commision on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform study, the author mentions overcrowded prisons and suggests that this bill may alleviate some of the stress on the Illinois prison system.
Members of the author’s bill group were concerned about aspects of the bill. One concern raised was about service hours, as they were compared to forced labor. Shwaiko said it was better than the alternative, which would be fines.
The bill clarifies, “those found in possession of small amounts of all drugs” will receive rehabilitation and avoid punishments. When questioned about what constitutes a “small amount,” the author specified that this decision would be case-by-case. A lack of clear definition leaves room for concern for some critics of the bill.
Shwaiko elaborated on what differentiates this bill from Illinois’ current rehabilitation system, stating that “this [bill] is different because it doesn’t require the addicts to serve any prison sentence and it sends them to a place which instead has a goal of recovery,” she said.
This weekend, the bill will be voted on for passage at the Illinois Youth and Government 72nd Assembly.