Illinois Passes Marijuana Legalization Bill

The governor of Illinois signed a marijuana legalization bill on Tuesday (June 25), making it the 11th state to legalize pot.

In addition, Illinois has become the first state to legalize the selling of the drug. Governor J.B. Pritzker, who advocated for legalization during his 2018 campaign, signed the bill in Chicago with the plan’s lead sponsors, Representative Kelly Cassidy (D-IL) and Senator Heather Steans (D-IL), in attendance.

“Today, we’re hitting the ‘reset’ button on the war on drugs,” Cassidy said, according to the Associated Press.

Residents 21 and older may purchase and possess up to one ounce (30 grams) of marijuana at a time, while non-residents are permitted to have 15 grams. The law — which goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2020 — allows cities and counties to prohibit sales, but not possession, within their borders. In addition, personal growing will only be legal for medical use. Possession will remain illegal until Jan. 1, said a spokesman for Senate Democrats.

“The war on cannabis has destroyed families, filled prisons with nonviolent offenders, and disproportionately disrupted black and brown communities,” said Pritzker. “Law enforcement across the nation has spent billions of dollars to enforce the criminalization of cannabis, yet its consumption remains widespread.”

During his campaign, Pritzker claimed that taxation of marijuana could generate $800 million to $1 billion a year, while dispensary licensing would bring in $170 million next year. However, Cassidy and Steans recently lowered those estimates to $58 million in the first year and $500 million annually within five years.

Illinois’ 55 medical-cannabis dispensaries will be the first to apply for licenses because they’re proven businesses, Cassidy said. They can apply to dispense recreational pot at their current stores, as well as request a license for a second location.

So far, 10 other states and the District of Columbia have legalized the smoking or eating marijuana for recreational use. Additional states, including New York and New Jersey, have considered legalization in their legislatures this year, but none of the proposals gained any traction.


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