Illinois Legislature Votes to Legalize Recreational Cannabis Use

(Rick Wilking/Reuters)

The Illinois House of Representatives has voted to legalize the possession and sale of cannabis to residents over the age of 21, making it the eleventh state to establish a recreational-cannabis market.

The legislation, which passed in a bipartisan 66–47 vote, will now go to the desk of Governor J.B. Pritzker, who campaigned on a platform of cannabis legalization and has said he will sign it.

“This will have a transformational impact on our state, creating opportunity in the communities that need it most and giving so many a second chance,” Pritzker said in his statement.

Under the new legislation, which will take effect January 1, Illinois residents over the age of 21 can possess up to 30 grams of cannabis, 5 grams of cannabis concentrate, or a cannabis-infused product containing 500mg of THC, while nonresidents can possess up to 15 grams of cannabis.

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The bill won praise from supportive legislators for a provision that directs Pritzker to pardon low-level cannabis offenders currently incarcerated in the state. It also allocates funding to social programs directed at communities most harmed by the war on drugs, and creates an equity program to facilitate minority participation in the industry through the provision of loans and lines of credit.

“Prohibition hasn’t built communities. In fact, it has destroyed them,” said state representative Kelly Cassidy (D., Chicago), who helped craft the legislation. “It is time to hit the reset button on the war on drugs.”

The recreational-cannabis market is expected to generate some $57 billion in annual revenue for the state, but opponents of the bill claim the windfall is outweighed by the potential for increased teenaged use and instances of driving while intoxicated.

“If this bill passes, a giant, big-money industry will commercialize another harmful, addictive drug in our state,” said state representative Marty Moylan (D., Des Plaines).

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