Illinois cannabis advocates have been eagerly awaiting a recreational regulation bill forecasted by the governor and last night, they got the forward movement they craved. On Wednesday, the state’s Senate passed a bill legalizing a regulated cannabis industry, along with consumption, possession, and sale for residents 21 years and older.
The plan, which will now go to the House for approval, was part of Governor J.B. Pritzker’s campaign promises. At the start of the month, the politician told the press that he was deep into negotiations with other policy makers about the form that legalization would assume.
Unsurprisingly, Pritzker seemed thrilled to see the momentum gaining for his marijuana master plan. “Illinois is poised to become the first state in the nation that put equity and criminal justice reform at the heart of its approach to legalizing cannabis, and I’m grateful that the Senate has taken this important step with a bipartisan vote,” he tweeted after news went out of the senators’ affirmative decision.
Text of the bill contains instructions for a social equity program that will prioritize industry leadership by people from communities that have been negatively impacted by the War on Drugs. The bill also features language prioritizing pardons for people who were targeted by the War on Drugs, which was among the issues that raised red flags for Republicans regarding the legislation, but whose social justice aspect was a stated priority of Pritzker. Language around the issue was toned down to insure that it had the necessary number of votes to clear the Senate vote.
The governor’s office says that past offenses of up to 30 grams will be eligible for expungement, if the crimes were not associated with violence. The Prisoner Review Board will be recommending to the governor whether pardons should be issued. Those with past offenses that involve possession of quantities over 500 grams will require an official petition by the individual or their attorney.
The legislation would make it legal to possess 30 grams of flower, five grams of concentrate, or cannabis products containing 500 milligrams of THC. Separate limits are established for visitors who are not official state residents, like a 15 gram cap on flower possession.
Approval of the bill largely fell along party lines. Senator Jason Barickman was one of only three Republicans that okayed the measure, commenting that he thought the bill met “the primary role of government … to adopt safeguards to protect minors and safeguards to protect the public when an individual’s use puts others in harm’s way.” He also said that he saw marijuana use as “largely a personal choice.”
One issue that reportedly delayed the approval of the legislation was senators’ concerns over whether individuals should be allowed to grow cannabis in their homes — an issue that has seen very diverse resolution in the states that have thus far legalized recreational cannabis. In Illinois, the senators’ answer was to authorize five at-home plants for the state’s 65,000 medical marijuana patients, but not for recreational users.
That’s not the only notable restriction in the legislation. There would be a “zero tolerance” policy for marijuana in the workplace, and the Illinois State Police will be in charge of examining ways to institute DUI laws for cannabis users.