Illinois, the sixth most populous state in the nation, just became the 11th state to legalize recreational marijuana use.
Signed into law by Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Tuesday, it marks the second time, following Vermont, that weed legalization was passed by the Legislature rather than by voters at the ballot box. Vermont was first, but the Illinois law establishes statewide distribution regulations, legalizing the sale of cannabis, right out of the gate.
Illinois’ law will let people have licenses to grow and sell cannabis, as well as allow adults 21 and older to possess and consume it. It allows residents the purchase and possession of up to one ounce of weed and non-residents up to 15 grams.
Before the bill goes into effect at the start of 2020 and legal dispensaries are set up and running, possession of pot will remain a crime in Illinois.
But as for the 800,000 people in Illinois with criminal records for purchasing or possessing a maximum of 30 grams of marijuana, the bill may mean their records are cleared. However, the governor said people with records of committing violent crimes won’t be able to receive pardons for weed possession.
By legalizing marijuana, the state can slap a tax on it, and it’s estimated to eventually rack up $500 million a year in revenue. The governor plans to take 25 percent of the marijuana tax revenue and put it toward local businesses that sell cannabis in predominantly black and brown neighborhoods. This is part of the Recover, Reinvest, and Renew (R3) Program that invests in communities held victim by the decades-long war on drugs.
At the signing ceremony, Pritzker said, “This legalization of adult use cannabis brings an important and overdue change to our state, and it’s the right thing to do.”
Marijuana remains illegal at the federal level.
Cover: This photo taken June 10, 2019, shows a DeKalb, Ill., man smoking marijuana from a bowl at his home. (Mark Busch/Northwest Herald via AP)