Illinois Poised to Become 11th State to Legalize Recreational Pot – Rolling Stone
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Illinois Poised to Become 11th State to Legalize Recreational Marijuana

Both houses of the state legislature approved a bill to would allow state residents 21 and older to possess up to 30 grams of cannabis

Illinois senators debate legislation while on the Senate floor during session at the Illinois State Capitol, in Springfield, Ill., as lawmakers press ahead on the last day of the spring legislative sessionIllinois Legislature, Springfield, USA

The Illinois Senate approved a bill legalizing marijuana — a major step toward becoming the 11th U.S. state allowing recreational pot use.

Seth Perlman/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Update (5/31/19): On Friday, the Illinois State House voted 66-47 to pass the adult-use cannabis bill after three hours of deliberation, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. It will now be sent to Governor J.B. Pritzker’s desk. He has said that he plans to sign it into law, making Illinois the 11th state to legalize cannabis for recreational use.

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The Illinois Senate approved a bill legalizing marijuana on Wednesday — a major step toward becoming the 11th U.S. state allowing recreational pot use. The measure, which passed in a 38-to-17 vote, now needs House approval by the Friday deadline before heading to the desk of Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who helped announce the bill with other lawmakers in early May.

Starting January 1st, 2020, the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act would allow Illinois residents 21 or older to legally purchase and possess any combination of up to 30 grams of cannabis flower, five grams of cannabis concentrate or 500 milligrams of THC in a cannabis-infused product.

The bill also includes a social-justice provision that would expunge an estimated 800,000 drug convictions involving up to 30 grams of cannabis. For amounts ranging from 30 to 500 grams, individuals or the state attorney can petition the court. Revenue generated from Illinois’ marijuana industry would be reinvested into communities impacted by what lawmakers called discriminatory drug enforcement in the U.S.

Taxation would operate on a scaled system: Cannabis flower with under 35 percent THC would be at 10 percent; cannabis-infused products at 20 percent; and marijuana products with over 35 percent THC at 25 percent. This would be in addition to the state’s 6.25 percent sales tax, and local jurisdictions could create an additional 3.5 percent tax, Marijuana Moment reports. 

Revenue generated from legal cannabis would be routed as follows: 35% into the state’s general operating fund; 25% for a new Restoring Our Communities fund, distributed as grands to communities that have “suffered the most because of discriminatory drug policies”; 20% for mental health and substance abuse treatment; 10% for unpaid bills; eight percent for law enforcement training grants and two percent for public drug education.

If approved, dispensaries would receive their licenses by May 1st, 2020, while processors, growers and transporters would earn theirs by July 1st.

The crux of the legislative debate came down to the issue of home-growing. The original proposal allowed adults to grow up to five plants per household (with permission from the landowner) in a locked room out of public view — but that provision, now amended, only applies to the state’s 65,000 medical marijuana patients, who are currently unable to grow.

However, the measure essentially decriminalizes low-level cultivation: Instead of jail time, non-patients who grow five or fewer plants would receive only a civil infraction that includes a fine upwards of $200.

The home-grow provision has already faced swift criticism from local police and marijuana activists alike. Steve Stelter, head of the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, told The Associated Press that law enforcement will face difficulty monitoring compliance. “We’re not going to walk up to a house and peek in the windows everywhere,” he said. “How are we going to know?”

Kris Krane, president of Phoenix-based cannabis business 4Front Ventures, underscored a clear discrepancy: “We don’t say anywhere in this country that people aren’t allowed to have a small craft brew at their house if they want to, and I think the same rules should apply here,” he told the AP.

Meanwhile, Dan Linn, Executive Director of Illinois NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws), noted, “The barriers to entry into this marketplace will only continue to expand the problems of the wealthy being able to profit from this new opportunity while others with fewer resources are unable to move from the illegal to legal marketplace in terms of growing and selling this product.”

But Linn still praised the bill on the whole as “one step of many in ending cannabis prohibition.” He continued, “Even after this bill passes there will still be work to do to give adults in Illinois access to cannabis without having to purchase it from a limited amount of stores and cultivators.”

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