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Illinois Legalizes Recreational Marijuana, Joins 10 Other States

This article was originally posted on May 30. It has been updated several times.

While efforts to legalize marijuana in Northeast legislatures were stymied this spring, Illinois moved full speed ahead.

On May 29, the state Senate voted 38-17 in favor of SB 2275, the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act. It went to the House as HB 1438.

On May 31, the Illinois House voted 66-47 in favor of the state’s legalization legislation, setting the stage for the Gov. J.B. Pritzker to approve it.

On June 25, the governor signed the bill, making Illinois the 11th state to legalize adult-use marijuana. “Studies have shown time and time again that black and white people tend to use cannabis at the same rates, but black people are far more likely to be arrested for possession,” he stated at the signing. “Criminalization offers nothing but pain, disruption and injustice. The legislators and activists standing with me today have heard you.”

This legislation is a landmark in a number of ways: Illinois is the first state to legalize recreational marijuana legislatively (30 grams in this case) and create a commercial market at the same time (Vermont did the former last year). It also expunges more than 750,000 cannabis-related cases, including all convictions for possession of less than 30 grams, and creates a social equity program for people most directly impacted by the War on Drugs.

ILLINOIS GOV. J.B. PRITZKER: “Criminalization offers nothing but pain, disruption and injustice. The legislators and activists standing with me today have heard you.”

Home growing (five plants) will only be allowed for medical patients. The tax structure is 10% on flower, 20% on edibles and 25% on concentrates, as well as state and local sales taxes, adding up to between 19% and 34% on products sold at retail outlets starting Jan. 1, 2020. The bills were sponsored by Sen. Heather Stearns and Rep. Kelly Cassidy.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker made marijuana legalization a hallmark of his 2018 gubernatorial campaign.

After it was signed, Marijuana Policy Project executive director Steve Hawkins hailed the Illinois legislature and Gov. Pritzker, calling it a “resounding victory for personal liberty, racial justice, and common sense,” and noting that “MPP was honored to work hand-in-hand with elected leaders to craft a law ending cannabis prohibition, in a way that begins to remedy the devastation of communities targeted by the war on drugs. Illinois’ focus on fairness and equity in legalization should be a model for other states… Illinois is the first state to legislatively replace cannabis prohibition with thoughtful, equitable regulation, but it will not be the last.”

NORML political director Justin Strekal added: “Governor Pritzker and legislators in Illinois have laid out a path forward for states like New York, New Jersey, and others to emulate in the national movement towards comprehensive marijuana law reform.”

The states with legal adult-use marijuana and regulated markets are: Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Oregon, Nevada and Washington. Vermont is also legal, but does not allow for commercial sales.

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