Illinois Is One Step Closer to Legalizing Marijuana

Matthew Geiger | @mattg444

The state of Illinois made a significant leap on Tuesday towards legalizing Marijuana for recreational use. The bill, titled “The Cannabis Tax and Regulation Act“, passed the Illinois State Senate by a 38-17 vote.

What Would Change?

The act would allow for individuals aged 21 and up to possess a maximum of 30 grams of marijuana. When it comes to growing the plant, however, the rules are slightly altered, with recreational users being barred from cultivation. On the contrary, medical marijuana users may grow the plant for its medicinal benefits.

The legislation also allows for individuals convicted of marijuana possession prior to decriminalization to have their records cleaned. In addition, those convicted of marijuana possession with 30 grams or more prior to legalization will be eligible for a pardon from Governor J.B. Pritzker. According to the Marijuana Policy Project, more than 750,000 marijuana-related cases will be eligible for expungement under this bill.

Like alcohol, purchasers of the drug will have to show proof of age and may not drive under the influence. The plant will also be taxed in a manner that is similar to tobacco and alcohol.

What Lawmakers Are Saying

Sen. Toi Hutchinson, who co-sponsored the measure, told The State Journal-Register about how she is looking forward to the mass expungement of former convicts that the bill would bring if passed.

I would say that this is the largest piece of expungement in a criminal-justice reform aspect in the country — I would probably say in the world

Furthermore, in a report by the Chicago Sun-Times, the Senator stated on the floor of the chamber that “the most historic aspect of this is not just that it legalizes cannabis for adults but rather the extraordinary efforts it takes to reduce the harm caused by the failed war on marijuana and the communities it hurt the most.”

Resistance to Legalization

Although roughly 60% of Illinois residents support the legalization of marijuana, there is still a sizable opposition from one group in particular: the police.

Law enforcement officials came out against the bill in early May, according to the Chicago Tribune. Their biggest concern centers around the danger of individuals driving while under the influence of the plant.

Westchester Police Chief Steven Stelter, president of the Chiefs of Police, noted that there is no widely accepted measure for marijuana impairment, which makes it tough to charge individuals with a DUI.

This is a disaster. The state is turning a blind eye. It’s a bunch of crap.

What’s Next?

The Illinois House of Representatives still needs to vote on the bill. If it passes the chamber, it will move to the Governor’s desk for his veto or signature.

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker has been a long-time advocate for legalizing the plant, indicating that he will most likely sign the bill should it reach his desk.

Should the bill make it into law, Illinois would become the 11th state in the country to legalize marijuana for recreational use.

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