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Governor Pritzker Announces Plan to Legalize Marijuana by 2020

Illinois Governor JB Pritzker and state lawmakers announced a bill over the weekend that would legalize the recreational use of marijuana for adults over the age of 21 beginning January 1, 2020.

Illinois Governor JB Pritzker speaks to supporters on election night in November 2018. Photo by Aaron Cynic.

“Years of work by stakeholders across Illinois means that today we are putting forward a framework for the General Assembly to move forward this session to legalize adult use cannabis, and we welcome additional feedback and insight during this debate,” said Governor JB Pritzker in a press release on Saturday. “From the outset, I made clear that any plan for adult use cannabis had to prioritize social justice and equity, and the approach we’re taking starts righting some historic wrongs and opening up access to this new market with a $20 million loan program that will help qualified applicants from impacted communities.”

The bill establishes personal possession parameters for Illinois residents and non-residents, a process for the automatic engagement of criminal histories for minor violations of the Cannabis Control Act, taxation levels at the point of sale of cannabis products, along with establishing the loan program.

Illinois residents would be able to possess up to 30 grams of cannabis and grow up to five plants at home in a separate locked room out of public view.

“Prohibition hasn’t worked. Today, we’re unveiling legislation that represents an important change in public policy, and it is long overdue,” said State Rep. Kelly Cassidy, who sponsored the bill alongside State Sen. Heather Steans. “We wanted to create a safe, legal and comprehensive regulatory system that protects patient access and allows adults to use cannabis while keeping it out of the hands of children. We wanted to address the years, the decades of unfairness in the ways that our drug laws have been enforced. This bill represents a giant leap in the right direction.”

The legislation would also create a new grant called Restoring Our Communities, which would receive 25 percent of revenue that comes from the sale of cannabis and be distributed to communities across Illinois “that have suffered the most from discriminatory drug policies.” According to the legislation, 20 percent of revenue would go to supporting services related to substance abuse and mental health, and 10 percent would go to paying some of the state’s backlogged bills.

Should the bill pass, Illinois would become the 11th state to legalize recreational marijuana. Critics of legalization efforts blasted the legislation.

“The consequences of this bill are far reaching and will have devastating impacts on citizens, communities and youth,” said Kevin Sabet, founder and president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, a Virginia-based nonprofit organization opposed to legalization efforts, in a statement given to NBC5. “Illinois lawmakers must take a smart, commonsense approach, and not welcome in another addiction-for-profit industry into the state.”

Chicago Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot said she looks forward to working with Pritzker and state lawmakers to make sure the legislation becomes law. “The recent legislation introduced is an important step forward in creating a fair process for legalizing recreational marijuana. More importantly, it allows Illinois the opportunity to put an end to a long overdue and unjust drug policy that has disproportionately affected Chicago’s black and brown neighborhoods for decades,” Lightfoot said in a statement emailed to press on Monday.

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