Illinois just voted to legalize recreational marijuana

Photo Credit: Carlos Gracia, Flickr

Illinois will soon be the 11th state in the United States where recreational marijuana is legal.

The Illinois House of Representatives – which has a Democratic supermajority – voted 66-47 in favor of legalization on Friday. The Illinois state Senate voted 38-17 to approve the legislation on Wednesday.

“It is time to hit the reset button on the war on drugs,” said State Representative Kelly Cassidy, a Democrat representing parts of Chicago. “What is before us is the first in the nation to approach this legislatively, deliberatively, thoughtfully with an eye toward repairing the harm of the war on drugs.”

Recreational marijuana legalization was a top priority of Illinois’ first-term governor, J.B. Pritzker, who was sworn into office in January. He has promised to sign the bill into law. The law will take effect on January 1, 2020.

“This will have a transformational impact on our state, creating opportunity in the communities that need it most and giving so many a second chance,” Pritzker said in a statement after the House approved the bill. “In the interest of equity and criminal justice reform, I look forward to signing this monumental legislation.”

The bill allows for adults over the age of 21 to possess and use marijuana, which will be available for purchase at state-licensed dispensaries. The state anticipates raising nearly $200 million in tax revenue from marijuana sales in 2020. The bill does not permit homegrown marijuana except for medicinal use.

An earlier version of the bill would have automatically expunged an estimated 800,000 convictions. The final bill allows the governor to use his pardon power to grant clemency to anyone convicted of selling up to 30 grams of marijuana. State’s attorneys can then petition a judge to expunge the criminal record.

Illinois is the second state in the Midwest to legalize recreational marijuana and the first to legalize it through the legislature. Michigan voters approved a recreational marijuana referendum last fall.

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