Illinois moves closer to becoming next state to legalize marijuana
(CNN) — Illinois is close to becoming the 11th state in the United States to legalize the purchase and possession of recreational marijuana.
The state’s Senate on Wednesday passed legislation on a 38-17 vote that would allow adults to buy and possess small amounts of marijuana. The bill is currently being considered by the Democratic-majority House, which is facing a Friday deadline to get bills passed before adjournment.
The bill already has the support of Illinois’ Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker, who had campaigned for the legalization of marijuana.
The bill would allow adults 21 and older to purchase and possess 30 grams of cannabis, five grams of cannabis concentrate, and cannabis-infused products containing no more than 500 milligrams of THC. Nonresidents will be able to purchase half of each of those amounts.
The measure would also pardon individuals with convictions for amounts of cannabis under 30 grams. State’s attorneys or individuals would be able to petition a court to vacate convictions for cases with 500 grams possession. Supporters of the bill argue that the criminalization of marijuana has disproportionately impacted communities of color.
According to the Marijuana Policy Project, more than 750,000 cannabis-related cases will be eligible for expungement under this measure.
“Illinois is poised to become the first state in the nation that put equity and criminal justice reform at the heart of its approach to legalizing cannabis, and I’m grateful that the Senate has taken this important step with a bipartisan vote,” Pritzker said in a statement Wednesday. “I encourage the House to take decisive action to make Illinois a national leader in equity and criminal justice reform.”
If passed, the bill would go into effect in January 2020. The measure would also introduce taxes for cannabis products. It gives grants and financial assistance to communities “most adversely impacted by the enforcement of cannabis-related laws” and provides loans to start cannabis businesses.
The bill would permit medical patients to buy marijuana seeds and grow up to five plants at home, so long as the plants are kept out of public view.
Employers can still enforce a drug-free workplace under the bill.
“Prohibition is not working. It’s time to come up with a better policy,” Democratic state Sen. Heather Steans, the bill’s sponsor, said in a statement Wednesday. “This plan keeps our children safe by prioritizing public safety, includes extensive restorative justice measures and brings in much-needed revenue for our state.”
Republican state Sen. Jason Barickman, who voted for the bill, argued “with these safeguards in place the people of Illinois look at this and want our government to give individuals freedom over their life decisions,” according to CNN affiliate WGN.
In 2018, Vermont became the first state to legalize marijuana by passing a law in the legislature rather than by use of a ballot measure.
Fifteen other states have decriminalized possession of marijuana and 33 states have legalized the use of medical marijuana, according to the Marijuana Policy Project.
Marijuana is still illegal under federal law despite some efforts from Congress, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.