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Illinois House and Senate Vote to Legalize Recreational Marijuana

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Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker’s signature on the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act will legalize recreational marijuana making it the 11th U.S. state to legalize and the first through legislation. Last week, the Illinois House passed the bill with a 66-47 bipartisan vote and had previously been passed in the Senate.

Governor to Sign Bill

Legalization was one of Governor J.B. Pritzker’s biggest campaign promises and now he’ll be signing it into law in a matter of days. Not only did he announce he’ll be signing the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act and promised that it will be, “the most equity-centric approach in the nation.”

This legislative initiative to legalize recreational marijuana received wide support from Illinois residents and lawmakers and many are hoping that it will address decades of racial disparities in the prosecution of cannabis-related crimes. Pritzker is committed to this goal in statement saying, “This will have a transformational impact on our state, creating opportunity in the communities that need it most and giving so many a second chance.”

Cannabis Social Equity

Representative Kelly Cassidy worked with Chicago Democratic Sen. Heather Steans to draft the bill for their respective branches over the course of a two year period. Rep. Cassidy noted that, “Prohibition hasn’t built communities. In fact, it has destroyed them. It is time to hit the reset button on the war on drugs.”

Illinois residents over the age of 21 will be able to legally purchase and consume marijuana starting January 1st of 2020. Adult-use cannabis consumers can legally possess 30 grams of flower, 5 grams of concentrate or 500 milligrams of THC contained in a cannabis-infused product. Even those consumers who are not residents of Illinois can possess 15 grams of cannabis.

Establishing Licensing System

In the interim, Illinois will be establishing a regulatory and licensing agency to oversee the licensing of recreational marijuana dispensaries and cultivation facilities. The Governor will be in charge of issuing pardons for convicts imprisoned for low-level pot possession. The bill also mandates the expungement of all previous cannabis convictions to provide more opportunities for those who’ve been denied jobs and financial assistance for education.

Illinois NORML Executive Director Dan was quick to point out that, “While this bill isn't perfect, it does provide a pathway for adults to legally obtain and consume cannabis. It also expands access and rights for qualified medical patients. Importantly, the bill provides much needed relief to those most harmed by the legacy of prohibition and emphasizes giving those who have been most harmed by cannabis criminalization preference in establishing a foothold in this new industry.”

The sales of recreational marijuana in Illinois are expected to generate around $57 million in tax revenue for that state in the first year. This funds will be appropriated to several sectors. The state’s general fund will be the largest benefactor raking in 35%; 25% will go to community grants; 20% to mental health and substance abuse programs; 10% to pay off state debt; 8% to support law enforcement; and 2% for public education.

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