According to Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, Illinois needs to relax marijuana laws and create tougher gun laws. Before a special legislative panel, Alvarez explained that in order to deter street violence with limited resources, Illinois criminal sentencing policies should target “those illegally carrying firearms who pose the greatest safety threat to our communities, and right now our unlawful use of a weapon penalties do not go far enough.”
Alvarez believes that reducing criminal sentences relating to cannabis would free up jail space for gun offenders. It would also save money if those offenders are diverted to alternative sentencing programs. She said that possession of under an ounce of cannabis should be treated as a petty offense rather than a misdemeanor. However, penalties for distribution of 2,500 grams (5.5 lbs) of cannabis should become stricter.
The State’s Attorney says that the law should be amended to effectively guarantee prison time for gun offenses involving previously convicted felons and known gang members. Offenders should be required to serve a minimum of 85% of their sentence.
Lastly, Alvarez recommended raising the threshold for felony theft from $500 to $1000.