Illinois Bill Would Legalize Marijuana

Legislation that would make Illinois the 11th state to legalize marijuana has been officially introduced.

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker and several state lawmakers have introduced a long-awaited bill that would legalize and regulate the use and sale of recreational marijuana in the state next year, reports the Associated Press.

Under the measure – which can be found by clicking here – was announced by Pritzker on Saturday and is expected to be introduced today. It would allow adults 21 and over tolegally purchase marijuana for recreational use from licensed retailers. Those 21+ would also be allowed to grow up to five plants for personal use, and would expunge the records of people with minor cannabis convictions and direct funding to communities most affected by the prohibition of the drug.

The measure is expected to pass the Illinois General Assembly’s House and Senate, both of which are controlled by Democrats. If approved, the state would become the 11th in the U.S. to legalize cannabis for recreational use. The measure would take effect on Jan. 1, 2020, but the state would not begin licensing retailers until that spring.

The bill’s framework was decided on by six working groups led by the governor’s office.

“This bill stems from an inclusive process that entailed community meetings, town halls, and legislative working groups,” state Sen. Heather Steans, a Democrat, said in a statement. “In spite of having a wide variety of views, most of us wanted the same basic things – social justice, safety for our kids, and revenue for our state. I think we’ve done a good job of balancing these three goals.”

The measure focuses heavily on social justice. It would establish a $20 million low-interest loan program for cannabis start-ups owned by residents of areas disproportionately affected by marijuana laws and those with cannabis convictions. It would also bar a single person or entity from holding an interest in more than three cultivation centers or 10 dispensaries.

“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.’ I’m very proud that we’re working in the right direction,” Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton said.

The governor’s office estimates that the cost to administer the law would be roughly $20 million annually, but it did not estimate the tax revenue the program is expected to generate.

Marijuana products would be taxed at different rates depending on the level of THC, the psychoactive compound found in the drug: Cannabis with THC levels at or below 35% would be taxed at 10%, while cannabis with THC levels above that would be taxed at 25%. All cannabis-infused products would be slapped with a 20% tax under the measure.

Pritzker, a Democrat who campaigned on a legalization platform, is banking on the passage of the measure and the revenue it will generate – $170 million in marijuana licensing fee revenue is included in Pritzer’s proposed budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1, according to the Associated Press.

Critics of the measure include the Illinois NAACP and others who argue that legalization will lead to more addiction and harm minority communities, according to the AP.

The state’s already-legal medical marijuana program will not be affected.

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