Chicago, IL — Governor J.B. Pritzker plans to make Illinois the 11th U.S. state to legalize recreational marijuana for adult use
Following the signing of bipartisan Farm Bill in December last year by President Donald Trump, marijuana legalization and decriminalization has picked pace across the country, and Illinois seems to be in the front seat.
A Big Sigh of Relief for Illinois Marijuana Legalization Efforts
Recreational pot users in Illinois can now breathe a huge sigh of relief after Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Saturday, May 4, 2019, unveiled his progressive plans to make marijuana legal for adult use.
In the presser, the outspoken Democratic Illinois governor said he has reached an amicable agreement with key state legislators and stakeholders to legalize recreational marijuana as soon as the beginning of next year.
Illinois started roundly criminalizing and prohibiting recreational use of cannabis in 1931, joining the craze that swept across the 29 states in the country at the turn of the 20th century.
The so-called Senate Bill 7 is already in high gear, and, if everything goes according to the plan, the recreational cannabis use law will come to force on January 1, 2020. Nonetheless, Illinois marijuana dispensaries, processors, growers, and other associated businesses will not get issued with licenses until May-July 2020, according to the office of the governor.
If it gets green-lighted, the new legislation backed the governor Pritzker would make it legal for Illinoisans aged 21 and above to purchase marijuana for recreational purposes from licensed dispensaries across the state.
If you are an Illinois resident, you will be able to legally possess up to 28 grams (around 1 ounce) of cannabis, while the possession for non-residents will be capped at 15 grams (approximately 0.5 ounces).
Not just that, the legislation would also make it legal for any household in Illinois to grow up to 5 cannabis plants for personal use only. Even still, this limit is a bit low when compared to other states that have made recreational cannabis use legal.
Across the border, the state of Michigan allows its residents to grow no more than 12 plants per household, and individuals can possess no more than 2.5 ounces of dispensary-bought cannabis.
Not a First
This isn’t the first time the state of Illinois is dipping its finger in the green jar.
Medical marijuana has been legal in the state since its legalization in November 2015. However, the state’s bid to legalize cannabis for medical use goes way back to 1978 when Illinois signed into law the Cannabis Control Act (CCA). But this law had no teeth because it called for actions from the State Police and Human Services departments, neither of which had vested interests.
Fast forward to 2019.
As of last month, there were more than 60,000 qualified patients taking advantage of the state’s opioid alternative and medical marijuana programs. There are already over 55 licensed medical cannabis dispensaries throughout the state. In fact, it is estimated that medical marijuana retail sales have soared to around $305 million since the legalization.
If the bill goes through, Illinois will join ten other states that have recreational cannabis legislation on the books, including its northern neighbor Michigan as well as Massachusetts, Vermont, Maine, Nevada, Washington & Washington D.C, Oregon, Colorado, Alaska, and of course California.
New Jersey and New York have recreational-use marijuana legislations baking in the oven, and they will soon hop aboard the weed train.
Governor: the Bill will help “Right Many Wrongs”
In July 2016, the state decriminalized some aspects of marijuana possession and use. It reduced the punishment for possession of no more than 10 grams from a misdemeanor to a fine of between $100 and $200. At the same time, it reduced the limit for a marijuana DWI to 5ng THC/ml in the blood.
Governor J.B Pritzker said the move to legalize cannabis for adult use will help right “some historic wrongs [against African Americans and other minority communities].” Even in his campaign trail, Pritzker was very assertive on the pushing for legislation that will put an end to discriminatory drug enforcement and policies.
“We are taking a major step forward to legalize adult use cannabis and to celebrate the fact that Illinois is going to have the most equity-centric law in the nation. For the many individuals and families whose lives have been changed, indeed hurt, because the nation’s war on drugs discriminated against people of color, this day belongs to you, too,” said Gov. JB Pritzker, in part, during the press announcement.
This in and of itself isn’t far-fetched. In the first quarter of 2018, 94 arrests were made in Chicago alone for small possession of cannabis. Of these, blacks bore the biggest brunt, accounting for a whopping 76 percent of all the arrests.
The governor also asserted that the bill will bring financial gains to the state. As part of the proposal, the state will also set up a $20 million low-interest loan program to help “social equity applicants” get their licensed marijuana businesses off the ground.
The Proposal is Facing Increasing Criticism and Opposition
Of course, not everyone is on board with the pending legislation.
On Wednesday, May 8, 2019, the police made it clear that they oppose the move to legalize commercial sales of cannabis in the state. This comes in spite of the fact that the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police and the Illinois Sheriffs’ Association were a party to the negotiations over the legislation. They claimed that their concerns were largely ignored by the lawmakers, including increased DWI cases and how the legislation will actually be enforced.
Interestingly, the police also want a huge chunk of the proceeds from the sale of recreational marijuana if the bill is signed into law.
Smart Approach to Marijuana and Illinois NAACP are two other organizations that have shown their disapproval of the bill. Teresa Haley, the President of NAACP Illinois branch, has gone so far as to term the legalization as “a form of modern-day slavery.”
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