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Pot, Sex And Cigs Among The Focus Of New Illinois Laws

sign for medical marijuana
Wikimedia Commons

With the start of the new year, hundred of laws are taking effect in Illinois. The marquee issues include marijuana, cell phone use, sex education and littering. But all sorts of laws will become enforceable, dealing with everything from special license plates to health-and-safety requirements. For a comprehensive list, go to the Quincy Journal.

The medical marijuana law is a “four-year trial program that would allow patients with certain chronic illnesses to obtain a prescription for medical marijuana,” according to the Chicago Tribune. But don’t plan to shop around just yet. Regulations and licenses have yet to be issued. And the illnesses must be “debilitating.”

The new cell phone law means that the devices cannot be used by the driver of a vehicle unless he or she uses Bluetooth or other hands-free technology. GPS systems are exempt; and, as the Tribune reports, the law has an emergency exemption. Texting is already illegal while driving in Illinois. The penalties start at $75 and could be considered a moving violation.

The sex education law says that if a public school chooses to teach sex education it has to include birth control and abstinence. Prior to this law, abstinence was the only thing that had to be included in such classes. Schools can decline to offer sex education and parents will be able to review materials and choose to keep children out of such classes.

Cigarette butts in gravel
Credit Wikimedia Commons

Smokers have to smoke outside, and now they will have to find a place to properly dispose of the butts. Cigarettes have been specifically added to the state’s Litter Control Act. According to the Illinois Policy Institute, “The first offense now comes with a Class B misdemeanor and a fine up to $1,500. The second time offense becomes a Class A misdemeanor, and the third time, it’s a felony that can come with a one-to-three year jail sentences and a $25,00 fine."

The affect of the new law extends beyond the smokers, however. According to Illinois Review, “The Litter Control Act says if no or not enough litter receptacles are placed on property where the illegal ‘butt flicking’ or littering took place, the owner or person in control of the property may be convicted of a petty offense and fined $100. The property owner or person in control of that property has 10 days after receiving a warning to provide the needed receptacles, and if he does not, he may be convicted of a petty offense and fined $25 for each waste receptacle not in place.”

Meanwhile, in general, littering will have a $50 mandatory minimum fine.

A few of the many other new Illinois laws:


Who is a minor? For purposes of delinquency or criminal records that age will be 17 up from 16.

Those under 18 cannot legally use tanning beds.

Minors cannot buy electronic cigarettes.

And parents or guardians cannot be sued for eavesdropping on electronic communications of the minors in their care.

Students gain the right to refuse to give a social networking password to schools, unless the school shows cause.

Credit File photo | Rachel Heidenry | St. Louis Beacon

And 17 year olds can vote in a primary if they will be 18 by the time of the general election.


State grant recipients and their employees cannot knowingly using grant funds for political activities or to compensate for time spent on political work.

And it will be a crime to accept payment for altering a criminal record.

Creates a working group to develop a plan to make the state budgeting process the most transparent in the nation.


Municipalities will be able to accept documents with an electronic signature.

Want to take an unfinished bottle of wine home from a winery? A person may now seal and take one bottle of opened wine.

Drinking and driving a boat? The secretary of state will be able to revoke the driver's license of a person found to be operating a watercraft under the influence of alcohol (Blood-alcohol tests will be required in boating accidents.)

Bicycles will be exempt from the ban on 2-wheeled devices passing on the right of another vehicle not propelled by human power.

Users of faster modes of transportation will see  the speed limit rising to 70 mph on certain highways; but counties in the Chiago are and the Metro East can set lower speed limits.


Only a few legal changes are set to begin on Jan. 1.

According to the Kansas City Star, newborns will now be tested fro congenital heart disease, among other things.

On the monetary side: Because of cost of living adjustment passed years ago, the minimum wage will rise to $7.50 from $7.35. On the business side, the franchise tax will be less as part of a phase out. And, the fees companies pay into the Second Injury Fund will double.

Donna Korando started work in journalism at SIU’s Daily Egyptian in 1968. In between Carbondale and St. Louis Public Radio, she taught high school in Manitowoc, Wis., and worked at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the copy editor and letters editor for the editorial page from 1973-77. As an editorial writer from 1977-87, she covered Illinois and city politics, education, agriculture, family issues and sub-Saharan Africa. When she was editor of the Commentary Page from 1987-2003, the page won several awards from the Association of Opinion Page Editors. From 2003-07, she headed the features copy desk.