Illinois Senate Advances Recreational Marijuana Bill

This is the first time a recreational bill in Illinois has made it this far.

Throughout the year, lawmakers in Illinois have been hammering out the details of a potential legalization bill. Now, that bill appears to be progressing through the legislative process.

Most recently, the bill cleared the Senate. It now moves on to the House. But before it can become law, the bill must be fully approved before the state’s legislative session adjourns this Friday.

Recreational Bill Bill Moves Forward

Yesterday, the Illinois Senate voted 38-17 in favor of the state’s newly-amended legalization bill. As a result, the bill has now been passed on to the House of Representatives.

And while the bill seems to have relatively broad support, lawmakers are up against the clock. Specifically, the bill must receive all necessary votes before this Friday’s adjournment.

If the bill becomes law, it will introduce a number of big changes to Illinois cannabis laws. Some of the most important changes include:

  • The bill would allow the state to create a recreational retail system.
  • Adults 21 and over will be allowed to buy recreational weed from licensed dispensaries.
  • Adults will be allowed to possess as much as 30 grams of flower, 5 grams of concentrates, and up to a half-gram of edibles.
  • The new bill will create a special cannabis DUI Task Force to explore best practices for policing new cannabis laws.
  • Additionally, the new bill includes provisions that prohibit lawmakers and their families from getting a business license for at least two years.
  • The bill includes a $30 million social equity loan to support minority-owned cannabis businesses.

Next Steps

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, the Illinois House will likely take up a number of issues today, including hashing out final debates on the recreational bill.

It is unclear how the bill will fare in the House. But some of the new amendments reportedly address past concerns raised by law enforcement groups and conservative legislators.

If the House approves the bill, Gov. Pritzker is almost definitely going to sign off on it. In fact, he’s made legalization a priority.

As per the Chicago Sun-Times, Pritzker encouraged the House “to take decisive action to make Illinois a national leader in equity and criminal justice reform” by passing the bill.

“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,” Pritzker said. “I’m grateful that the Senate has taken this important step with a bipartisan vote.”

A Back-and-Forth Process

In the wake of multiple debates, this most recent version of the legalization bill includes a number of revisions.

Most notably, there was significant debate surrounding the issues of home growing and how to deal with past cannabis convictions.

As for the home grow debate, the new bill scaled back provisions. Initially, the bill would have allowed people to grow their own weed for recreational uses. But now, the bill will restrict home growing only to state-approved medical marijuana patients.

Similarly, the bill’s provisions for addressing past cannabis convictions has been scaled back. Originally, the bill would have automatically expunged roughly 800,000 cannabis-related convictions.

Now, only those convicted of possessing less than 30 grams of marijuana are eligible. And instead of an automatic expungement, people who qualify will first need to be pardoned by the governor. They can then petition the court for expungement.

Lindsey, ByNick. “Illinois Senate Advances Recreational Marijuana Bill.” Green Rush Daily, 30 May 2019, greenrushdaily.com/politics/illinois-senate-advances-recreational-marijuana-bill/.

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