As in other states, a breakdown of drug crimes in Illinois reveals patterns in drug use, drug arrests and convictions. A complex and changing mix of factors affects these patterns in a variety of ways. Pertinent factors include the availability of substances in communities, evolving changes in public opinion, priorities and staffing of enforcement agencies and changes in laws. One big change recently enacted is the legalization of recreational marijuana use in the state.

According to the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority, the statewide drug arrests for all substances came in at a rate of 609 arrests per 100,000 people in 2016. At 42%, cannabis accounted for the majority of arrests, with controlled substances second at just over 28% and drug paraphernalia offenses were third at nearly 25%. When analyzed by locality, the highest rate for drug arrests occurred in mostly rural areas, followed by mostly urban localities and then by completely urban places. When it came to prison admissions for drug offenses, the largest category by far was controlled substances, which accounted for over 93% of incarcerations. Males accounted for over 85% of prison admissions, while blacks accounted for 57% of imprisonments by race, with whites second at 34%.

The plan to legalize marijuana in Illinois is likely to affect drug enforcement. The law does not go into effect until January 1, 2020. In the interim, according to an article in the Chicago Tribune, the police may still cite people for marijuana offenses, though minor offenses are unlikely to be prosecuted in the court system. Once the law is in effect, many cannabis arrests for a minor offense will be wiped clean from a person’s criminal record.