Illinois Governor Introduces Marijuana Legalization Bill

By Kelly Burch 05/08/19

The bill would also expunge the records of people convicted of some marijuana-related offenses. 

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker
Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker has introduced a measure that would legalize recreational marijuana in the state next year, including in the nation’s third-largest city, Chicago.

"It is possible, likely that it may be available through dispensaries beginning January 1, 2020," Pritzker said, according to ABC 7.

According to the Associated Press, the bill would legalize recreational cannabis use for people who are 21 or older. Illinois residents would be able to possess 30 grams of marijuana (about one ounce), while non-residents could possess 15 grams (about half an ounce). Marijuana would be sold at dispensaries throughout the state.

In addition to legalizing cannabis, the bill would also expunge the records of people convicted of some marijuana-related offenses. 

“This bill advances equity by providing resources and second chances to people and communities that have been harmed by policies such as the failed ‘war on drugs,'” said Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton.

The bill would provide low-interest loans to people from communities that have been disproportionately affected by the prohibition on marijuana, or people who have had a marijuana-related offense that would be expunged under the new law and now want to start marijuana-related businesses. 

Still, some organizations including the Illinois NAACP oppose legalization in the state, saying that it will do more harm to marginalized communities of color. 

Kevin Sabet, founder and president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, said, “The consequences of this bill are far-reaching and will have devastating impacts on citizens, communities and youth. Illinois lawmakers must take a smart, commonsense approach, and not welcome in another addiction-for-profit industry into the state.”

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel seemed to support legalization, albeit with reservations. 

"Thematically, philosophically I think I support the governor but I say it also as a father of three, that you have to do it in a way that's not encouraging a type of behavior,” he said. 

Chicago Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot is in favor of the bill. 

"I think that the bill that was announced on Saturday is an important step forward, so I do support it," she said. 

Although Democrats control the state legislature and the bill is expected to pass, not everyone in the party is on board with legalization, said Democratic State Rep. Marty Moylan.

"It's important that we send a message to the state and the governor. Governor, we need more work on this. This is not a bill that we want,” Moylan said. 

Pritzker initially said that legalizing marijuana would add $170 million in revenue to the state’s troubled budget, but later said that that number may be revised down. 

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.