Why is Illinois in such a rush to legalize recreational cannabis?

If Illinois legalizes adult-use weed, it will become the 11th U.S. State to do so


Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

On May 7, Illinois Senator Heather Steans introduced a piece of legislation to legalize adult-use cannabis in Illinois by 2020. Under Illinois State law, the cannabis plant has been decriminalized and legalized for medical purposes since 2015. Almost 67,000 qualifying patients were enrolled in the state’s medical cannabis program as of May 2019.

Since legalization unfurled across Illinois four years ago, 55 medical cannabis dispensaries have managed to earn $323 million in retail sales. With such a booming medical cannabis industry, the question begs to be asked: Why is Illinois in such a hurry to legalize adult-use weed? If lawmakers from Illinois General Assembly do, in fact, vote to legalize the plant for recreational purposes by the May 31 deadline, it would become the 11th U.S. State to do so.

The 10 states that have been given the green light to completely legalize pot so far are Alaska, California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington.

State’s pro-pot movement is being led by billionaire governor J.B. Pritzker

(Pictured) Governor-Elect J.B. Pritzker

Since 2019, Governor-Elect J.B. Pritzker has served as the 43rd Governor of Illinois. The American politician is also a businessman and philanthropist. The billionaire founded the Pritzker Group and he is paving the way for Illinois’ legal cannabis industry.

“There is an abundance of evidence that shows we can legalize [cannabis] in a safe way. It would have real benefits for Illinois, including reducing opioid overdoses and bringing in much-needed revenue from taxation,” said Pritzker, adding that, “legalizing [cannabis] is a step forward in reforming our broken criminal justice system. Criminalizing [cannabis] hasn’t made our communities safer. What it has done is disproportionately impact black and brown communities.”

Based on the details contained in Illinois’ proposed cannabis bill, possession of a maximum of 30 grams would be legalized for individuals aged 21 and over. In addition to this, misdemeanor and Class 4 felony cannabis convictions would be expunged.

“There are way too many people who have gone to prison or are currently sitting in prison for [cannabis] related offenses. The criminalization of [cannabis] has never been and never will be enforced fairly and it’s time to bring that to an end,” he added.

What would cannabis legalization in Illinois mean for the State?

Governor J.B. Pritzker and lawmakers in Illinois hope to legalize recreational cannabis by January 1, 2020. While some opponents believe the law would increase the risk of motorists driving under the influence of cannabis, there seem to be plenty of pros to outweigh the cons.

For example, a $20 million low-interest social equity program for victims of low-level drug crimes will be established. Affected individuals would have the chance to launch their own business in the legal weed industry under the new law. The expungement of low-level drug convictions would also be included in the law.

Not everybody agrees with the idea of legal weed in Illinois, however. Examples of some organizations in opposition of cannabis legalization in Illinois include the Illinois Association of Housing Authorities, Illinois Chiefs of Police Association, Midwest Truckers Association and Illinois Drug Enforcement Officers Association.