The Illinois legislature has passed a bill legalizing small amounts of recreational marijuana and directing the governor to pardon thousands of low-level drug offenders:
Illinois is poised to be the 11th state in the country to legalize recreational marijuana beginning Jan. 1, 2020.
The state House of Representatives approved its legalization bill 66-47 on Friday. Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker, who campaigned on legalizing cannabis, quickly released a statement saying he’ll sign the legislation.
“It is time to hit the reset button on the war on drugs,” said State Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-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.”
The bill would allow adults over 21 to possess and use marijuana recreationally starting next year. They’d be able to buy the drug at dispensaries that must undergo a rigorous state licensing process.
One big component of the bill would create a pathway for people with past marijuana convictions to have those wiped out. Anyone convicted of selling up to 30 grams of cannabis could gain executive clemency through the governor.
For convictions linked to the sale of larger amounts up to 500 grams, a state’s attorney or individuals could petition the court to have those criminal records vacated and expunged.
The law will take effect January 1st. However, marijuana still remains illegal in the United States, so Federal authorities could still arrest and prosecute users, just as they can in the other 10 legal states.
Expungements and pardons could affect up to 800,000 people in the state.
That garnered key support for the bill in communities hit hardest by the "war on drugs."