Illinois Releases Plan For Full Legalization

Modesto Morganelli
Mag 9, 2019

J.B. Pritzker and several state lawmakers have proposed a long-awaited bill that would legalize and regulate the use and sale of recreational marijuana in the state next year.

"Years of work by stakeholders across IL means that today we are putting forward a framework for the General Assembly to move forward this session to legalize adult use cannabis, and we welcome additional feedback and insight during this debate", said Governor JB Pritzker in a press release on Saturday.

Under proposed rules for an adult recreational use program, the state of IL would preclude large-scale commercial growers and instead focus on small "craft" growers. The bill also has measures in place that would promote social equity, such as a low-interest loan program for prospective business owners and the expungement of some low-level drug convictions.

Chicago Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot released a statement Monday endorsing Pritzker's plan as "an important step forward in creating a fair process for legalizing recreational marijuana".

The legislation would also establish the Restoring Our Communities (ROC) program "to invest in communities that have suffered the most because of discriminatory drug policies". While the IL law would take effect January 1, the first licenses for IL growers, processors and dispensaries wouldn't be issued until May and July 2020, the governor's office said.

"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 Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton, who is black. Residents will be allowed to grow up to five plants as long as the plants are out of public view.

Pritzker and other lawmakers who worked on the measure have estimated that it would expunge 800,000 misdemeanor and Class 4 felony marijuana convictions.

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 consequences of this bill are far reaching and will have devastating impacts on citizens, communities and youth", said Kevin Sabet, founder and president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana. Pritzker campaigned on the issue of legalizing recreational marijuana and is counting on $170 million from licensing fees in his proposed state budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

Medical cannabis is already legal in IL. He's said future revenue from legal marijuana will help IL address some of its deep financial problems. Another 35 percent would go to a general state revenue fund and 20 percent would go to a fund designated to support local mental health and substance abuse services. "More importantly, it allows IL the opportunity to put an end to a long overdue and unjust drug policy that has disproportionately affected Chicago's black and brown neighborhoods for decades", Lightfoot said in a statement emailed to press on Monday.

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