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State

Lawmaker: Lower penalty for small drug crimes

SPRINGFIELD — A lawmaker wants to reduce the penalty for possession of low levels of marijuana or harder drugs as part of a criminal justice "realignment" to reduce the strain on state prisons.

Democratic Rep. Michael Zalewski of Riverside introduced the package Wednesday after failed efforts last fall to get approval for longer sentences for carrying illegal weapons. Critics resisted the measure — a priority of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel — saying it would further burden crowded prisons.

Zalewski still supports the gun measure but didn't discuss it in the House Judiciary Committee. He suggested making possession of less than an ounce of marijuana a petty offense — like a traffic ticket — and other legislation. The committee didn't vote.

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