Geneva favors raising fine for marijuana possession

Getting caught with a little marijuana in Geneva will soon cost you a lot more money.

Aldermen favor raising the fine for violations to $300, up from $120.

But they also don't want to be excessively punitive, and so rejected a request by two aldermen to levy the maximum fine of $500.

They discussed the matter at a committee of the whole meeting Monday night. A binding vote is set for Monday.

Illinois changed state law last year to make possession of fewer than 10 grams of marijuana a civil violation instead of a criminal offense. That gave municipalities the ability to issue tickets instead of bringing misdemeanor charges against people.

At first, Geneva thought it could only fine $120, police Cmdr. Brian Maduzia said, but then found out it could go up to $500 - something with "a little more teeth in it."

The police department recommended the $300 fine, which may also have the effect of forcing cash-strapped minors to tell their parents about their infractions so they can get money to pay the fines, he said.

Police say they can't notify parents about citations issued to teens.

Alderman Jim Radecki proposed fining $500 and questioned why the police were recommending only $300.

"As a parent of multiple children, it would be OK to me to make it $500. They would have to come to me," Radecki said.

But only Alderman Becky Hruby agreed with him. Alderman Don Cummings said $500 was unnecessarily punitive.

The city charges a $250 fine for people under age 21 who possess or consume alcoholic beverages. Alderman Jeanne McGowan asked why not make the marijuana fine the same.

Maduzia said the alcohol violation is a lesser crime under state law; marijuana possession, except for those with medical-use permits, is illegal across the board.

"And marijuana is more of a gateway drug. It's more of a step up than a 17-, 18-, 19-year-old having a beer," Maduzia said.

St. Charles levies a $200 fine for marijuana possession. Batavia charges $100, which increases to $200 if you don't pay the fine within 10 days.

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