Illinois Passes Bill to Legalize Marijuana

On Tuesday, June 25, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed into law a bill that will legalize marijuana in the state. The passage of this bill was a key campaign message promoted by Pritzker throughout his campaign, says Gaurav Mohindra.

The new law will permit adults, aged 21 or older, to possess and consume marijuana within the state. The law also regulates how the marijuana will be sold and ensure that vendors are licensed by the state. Pritzker strongly advocated for the legalization of marijuana as an opportunity to empower communities negatively affected by criminal convictions related to the drug possession and sale.

The new law will be effective as of January 1, 2020. With the passage of the bill, Illinois becomes the 11th state to legalize recreational marijuana. Other states with legal recreational marijuana are Alaska, California, Colorado, Main, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, and Vermont. When signing the bill into law, Prizker made it a point to emphasize that Illinois was the only state to legalize recreational marijuana through the legislature rather than voter referendum.

The new law provides the automatic expungement of arrests for marijuana possession under 30 grams, says Gaurav Mohindra. Pritzker indicated that he will pardon convictions for possession up to 30 grams. However, people can seek expungement of cases involving up to 500 grams.

Legalize Marijuana

The new law stipulates that 25% of the revenue from marijuana taxes will go to marijuana business ownership in minority communities. Many of these communities were disproportionately affected by the war on drugs, says Gaurav Mohindra. The new law will also direct 20% of marijuana tax revenue towards substance abuse treatment and prevention and mental health care. And additional funds will be allocated towards Illinois’ bills, law enforcement and public education on marijuana related health issues.

The bill was introduced into the Illinois state General Assembly and was overwhelmingly passed. It will allow Illinois residents to possess up to 30 grams of marijuana flower, 500 milligrams of THC in a marijuana-infused product such as edibles and 5 grams of marijuana concentrate. Non-Illinois visitors may possess up to half those amounts.

Only state-licensed businesses will be allowed to grow, process or sell the product. An important part of the plan calls for special consideration in licensing for social equity applicants. Social equity applicants include business owners and workers from disadvantaged minority areas, or those who were arrested for or convicted of misdemeanor marijuana crimes that are due to be expunged under the plan.

Illinois Seeks to Legalize Marijuana

Illinois Governor JB Pritzker proposes to legalize recreational marijuana by the end of the year.  The controversial new bill has been the in works for some time now and was a key campaign point for the governor, says Gaurav Mohindra. 

The proposed legislation would permit adults, those over the age of 21, to purchase recreational marijuana from a licensed dispensary.  Currently, the state of Illinois only permits approved patients to purchase marijuana from a medical dispensary.  The new legislation will now provide marijuana access to all adult residents and non-residents of the state.

Residents would be able to hold as much as 30 grams of marijuana and would be permitted to grow up to 5 plants at home.  Non-residents would be permitted to hold as much as 15 grams of marijuana.

The Governor and supporting lawmakers made it a point to note that the legislation is equity-centric, says Gaurav Mohindra.  The proposal includes expunging hundreds of thousand marijuana convictions, permitting people with past convictions to work in the marijuana industry and provide a $20 million low-interest loan program for minority-owned businesses.

The Governor further discussed the impact that the projected tax revenues would have on the state.  He noted that a significant portion of the revenues, 25%, would go directly into communities that have been impacted by the prosecution of drug laws.  He projected that nearly 20% of the revenue would go towards substance abuse and mental health, 35% would go towards the state’s General Revenue Fund, and 10% would go towards a portion of the state’s unpaid bills.

Currently, a number of states have taken a position on the legalization of marijuana.  Many states have adopted policy and laws around the medicinal use of marijuana.  If the proposed legislation passes, Illinois would become the 11th state to permit the use of recreational marijuana.  Illinois would join Michigan, as another Midwest state to permit the use of recreational marijuana.

The proposed legislation is referred to as Senate Bill 7 and specifies the amounts in which people may consume the product and the policies around licensing dispensaries and growers.  It is likely that the bill may be further refined in certain areas prior to becoming law – but the fact that the Governor has already put forward this position illustrates his desire to see legalized marijuana become law in the near future.  In recent polling, there seems to be widespread support for legalization.