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Bill Would Allow Temporary Access to Medical Marijuana in Place of Opioid Painkillers

joliet marijuana attorney

The United States is in the midst of what is being called an “epidemic.” Americans are struggling with heroin dependency and abuse on a scale that has never been seen before. Health experts believe that prescription opioid painkillers are a large part of the problem, but patients who are in serious pain often have few options. In Illinois, however, suffering patients may soon have temporary access to medical marijuana as an alternative to prescription opioids.

A Landmark Measure

Last month , both houses of the Illinois legislature passed The Alternatives to Opioids Act, which would give millions of Illinois residents conditional access to the state’s medical marijuana program. Under the existing program, an eligible patient must have one of several dozen approved medical conditions and undergo an application process through the state. It also requires patients to be fingerprinted and have a background check completed.

The new measure would expand the medical cannabis program to include patients who would otherwise be prescribed prescription opioids for pain. Opioid painkillers include drugs such as Vicodin, OxyContin, and other medications with a dangerous rate of addiction and abuse. If approved by the governor, the law would increase the scope of the state’s medical marijuana program exponentially. There are currently about 37,000 approved users now, but the state sees some 8 million opioid prescriptions filled annually.

A Safer Option

There is some debate over how effective marijuana is at controlling severe or chronic pain. Senator Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, the primary sponsor of the bill, however, says that the ongoing discussions should not stop people from having other options. “The only two things I know for certain is: Opioids kill people, and marijuana does not,” Harmon said.

The statistics seem to be on Harmon’s side. Since 2008, there have been about 11,000 deaths linked to opioid overdoses. Meanwhile, the Drug Enforcement Administration has never reported a single death related to an overdose of marijuana.

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner has been historically opposed to expanding the state’s medical marijuana program. Statewide political experts believe, however, that pressures from a pro-legalization candidate in the upcoming gubernatorial election could push Rauner into being a little more open to the idea.

Call Us for Help

While the medical marijuana program has given thousands of Illinois residents legal access to the drug, those who have not been approved for the program could still face criminal charges for possessing or selling marijuana. If you have been charged with any type of drug crime, contact an experienced Joliet criminal defense attorney for help right away. Call 815-740-4025 to schedule a free consultation at the Law Office of Jack L. Zaremba today.

Illinois’ Most Lenient Sentencing Options for Felony Convictions

joliet felony criminal attorney

When someone is convicted of a felony in Illinois, the maximum penalties can include years in prison and thousands of dollars in fines. But what is the lightest sentence that the court is allowed to hand down?

Can You Get Court Supervision for a Felony?

Illinois does not allow court supervision for felonies. Court supervision is a sentencing option only for traffic violations, petty offenses, and most misdemeanors, including a first-time DUI (but not a repeat DUI).

For those unfamiliar with the term, court supervision is a deferred dismissal of your case. At the end of the supervision period (usually one year), if you have met the requirements set by the court (e.g., not committing another violation and finishing an educational program), the case is dismissed, and no conviction is entered on your record.

Is Probation Without Jail Time Possible for a Felony?

Illinois law allows a sentence of probation (with no time in prison) for most, but not all, felonies in Illinois. First degree murder and Class X felonies (e.g., aggravated assault with a firearm or drug possession involving large quantities of heroin or similarly dangerous drugs) are not eligible for probation; a term of imprisonment is required by state law.

Illinois statutes spell out minimum and maximum prison terms and fines for each felony, but the state also encourages judges to choose alternatives to costly imprisonment, such as probation. The Illinois State Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform has recommended against the incarceration of people convicted of a Class 3 or 4 felony, particularly when the person has no prior convictions for a violent crime and has not previously been sentenced to probation.

Probation requires the convicted individual to check in regularly with a probation officer and to comply with all conditions set by the court, which can be extensive. Violation of probation terms will result in sanctions, including the possibility of being sent to prison. The length of a probation sentence varies depending on the severity of the crime. For the lowest-level Class 4 felony , an offender can be sentenced to probation for up to 30 months, or imprisonment for one to three years.

What Does a Sentence of Conditional Discharge Mean?

A sentence of conditional discharge is an even better outcome than probation, because the offender does not need to check in regularly with a probation officer. But, as with probation, the offender still has a conviction on their record and must meet various conditions set by the court for the required period of time.

Trust an Experienced Joliet Felony Defense Attorney

If you or a loved one has been charged with a serious crime, you need the help of an experienced Will County criminal defense lawyer. The Law Offices of Jack L. Zaremba will provide the aggressive defense you need, from the moment you contact us. We respond to calls 24/7 at 815-740-4025; call now for a free, no-obligation consultation.

Understanding Illinois’ 410 Probation for First-Time Drug Offenders

joliet 410 probation attorney

Did you know that more people now die in the U.S. each year from drug/alcohol overdoses than from shootings or car accidents? In response to this public health crisis, state governments have been experimenting with a variety of solutions, including substance abuse treatment programs and other alternatives to imprisonment for low-level drug offenses.

Illinois, for example, offers a program known as 410 probation, also known as first-time drug offender probation ( 720 ILCS 570/410 ). As with any sentence of probation or court supervision, an offender must plead guilty to the drug charge. But if they fulfill all of the terms of the 410 probation, the charges will be dismissed, and they will not have a conviction on their record. (In that respect, this is more like a court supervision than a probation.) Avoiding a drug felony conviction can be critical to one’s ability to obtain employment in many fields.

What Crimes Are Eligible for 410 Probation?

• The Class 4 felony of possession of a small quantity of a controlled or counterfeit substance under 720 ILCS 570/402(c), such as:

o Less than 15 grams of a substance containing cocaine, heroin, LSD, or morphine.

o Less than 30 grams of a substance containing ketamine, methaqualone, pentazocine, or phencyclidine.

o Less than 200 grams of a substance containing peyote, barbituric acid, or amphetamine.

o Less than 200 grams of a substance containing a Schedule I or II narcotic drug not listed elsewhere.

• The Class 4 felony of unauthorized possession of prescription drugs under 720 ILCS 570/406.2.

What Are the Requirements for 410 Probation?

To qualify for 410 probation, you must have no previous conviction or court supervision for any criminal drug offense. You can get 410 probation more than once in a lifetime, but no more than once within a four-year period.

You may be required to pass a drug evaluation. If that evaluation finds that you have a substance abuse problem, making it unlikely that you can fulfill the terms of 410 probation, then you will not be eligible for 410 probation.

410 probation lasts for two years. During that time, you must fulfill numerous conditions, which typically include: no new criminal charges, no possession of firearms or other dangerous weapons, random drug tests, performing at least 30 hours of community service, paying fines and court costs, meeting with a probation officer or other agency on a regular basis, holding a job or going to school, and receiving such medical and/or psychiatric treatment as the court deems appropriate.

During that two-year period, if you fail to meet any of the conditions set by the judge, you will go back to court for a probation violation hearing. The judge may then convert your sentence of 410 probation to regular probation or imprisonment, in which case you will then end up with the drug conviction on your criminal record.

The arrest and charges will still show up on your criminal record, but after a period of time, you can petition to have those records expunged.

Choose an Experienced Joliet Drug Crimes Defense Attorney

Having a drug felony conviction on your record can make it very difficult for you to obtain employment in many fields. If you have been charged with a Class 4 felony drug crime, 410 probation is one way to avoid the criminal conviction, but there are other options as well. You will need the advice of a Will County drug crimes defense lawyer . The Law Offices of Jack L. Zaremba will examine all the facts of your case and develop a strategy to help you obtain the best possible outcome to your case. Contact us at 815-740-4025 at any time for a free consultation.

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