Illinois Governor introduces bill to legalize recreational cannabis, but opponents try to stop it

Approximately 800,000 low-level drug convictions would be expunged under the provision

Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

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The pro-pot residents of Illinois are eagerly awaiting the results of a bill put forward by State Governor J.B Pritzker that would legalize recreational cannabis statewide.

Illinois would go down in history as the 11th U.S. State to fully legalize cannabis, should Pritzker’s bill be approved. The proposal’s official unveiling took place in Chicago on Saturday.

Presented alongside other Democratic lawmakers, the bill to legalize recreational cannabis in Illinois would enable residents aged 21 and above to possess a maximum of 30 grams. For non-residents, the limit is 15 grams. This is based on a report by the Associated Press.

Legalizing recreational cannabis in Illinois will create regulated market

Establishing a recreational cannabis system in Illinois would initiate the development of a dispensary market through which the plant can be sold in a regulated manner.

Monday is the anticipated date on which the measure will be formally introduced by means of a debate at the state legislature. Democrats constitute a vast portion of the state legislature’s two chambers.

In the event that the recreational cannabis bill in Illinois passes, the law would officially be enacted on the first day of January 2020. Despite the fact that the industry would launch at the beginning of next year, cultivators, processors and dispensaries will have to wait until May and July 2020 to apply for a license.

Integral components of Pritzker’s plan contained in a social-justice provision

Approximately 800,000 low-level drug convictions would be expunged under the provision. Recreational cannabis sales revenue generated in Illinois will be used to rebuild communities “devastated” by drug enforcement policies.

“This bill advances equity by providing resources and second chances to people and communities that have been harmed by policies such as the failed ‘War on Drugs,’” said Lieutenant Governor Juliana Stratton.

Included in the recreational cannabis proposal is a $20 million loan program with a low-interest rate. The loan would be utilized to relieve financial strain for “social equity applicants” and licensed weed businesses; particularly, the loan would aid individuals residing in adisproportionately impacted area.”

In addition to this, Illinois’ low-interest loan program would provide possibilities for applicants who have been convicted of or arrested for committing an offense eligible for expungement. Illinois’ recreational cannabis bill would also permit adults to cultivate a maximum of five plants per household, so long as they have received permission from the landowner.

The State’s existing medical cannabis program would not be affected by the recreational cannabis law, meaning that dispensary owners must maintain sufficient supply to meet the needs of medical cannabis patients.

Governor’s office releases details of recreational cannabis distribution in Illinois

Based on details released by the governor’s office, 35 percent of legal cannabis revenue would be funnelled into Illinois’ general fund and 25 percent would be allocated to the Restoring Our Communities fund. This fund would aid individuals who “suffered the most because of discriminatory drug policies.”

A further 20 percent would financially benefit centers offering treatment options for substance abuse/mental health, while the remaining 10 percent would be used to pay unpaid bills, eight percent for law enforcement training grants and two percent for educating the public on drug awareness.

Anti-cannabis opponents want to overthrow Illinois’ recreational cannabis bill

Not everybody is on-board with the idea of cannabis legalization and record expungement in the state of Illinois. Legal cannabis opponents have declared their disapproval for Pritzker’s bill to legalize recreational cannabis.

“Minorities have said to me we don’t want this stuff in our neighborhood,” said state Rep. Marty Moylan, D-Des Plaines, during a news conference on Monday. “There are other ways to generate revenue, not on the backs of our children and young adults.”

Moylan was accompanied by members of an anti-cannabis legalization group called Smart Approaches to Marijuana. Group representatives and medical experts claim that legislation expunging low-level cannabis offenses should not be associated with legalization. Moylan believes that the bill could be stopped, due to the lack of support from opponents.  

Nonetheless, Pritzker is optimistic that a recreational cannabis bill will be passed by lawmakers this session.

“I think we’re going to see, in Springfield, movement over the next several weeks,” declared Pritzker. “There are some questions by others of tweaks to make to the bill, so that will probably occur. But I believe before May 31st we will have it in place.”