Illinois State Legislature the First in the Country to Legalize Recreational Use of Marijuana

Illinois is one step away from enacting a bill legalizing the use of marijuana, making it the first state to do so through the legislature. Ten other states approved recreational use of marijuana through ballot initiatives, including Colorado, California, Massachusetts, Oregon, Nevada, Vermont, Alaska, Maine, Michigan, and Washington. But this is the first time a state legislature in the United States has taken such an action.

The Bill is on the Governor’s Desk for Signature

The bill is on Governor J.B. Pritzker’s desk. It passed the state House of Representatives by 66 to 47 vote. Governor Pritzker indicated that he plans on signing the bill. He estimated that it would make the state $170 million in the first year alone.

High Sales Tax

Users will have to pay heavy sales taxes on the cannabis they purchase in Illinois. There will be a 10% tax on marijuana products containing less than 35% THC, and a 25% or more tax on products with a higher concentration.

Details of the Law

Under the proposed law, Illinois residents 21 and older, beginning on January 1, 2020, will be able to legally possess up to 30 grams of cannabis–a little more than an ounce–and will be able to purchase it from licensed marijuana dispensaries. Non-residents can possess about half the amount of weed that residents can possess.

Under the new law, residents of Illinois convicted of possessing small amounts of marijuana can petition for expungement, so long as the offense was not associated with violent crime. The Illinois Sentencing Policy Advisory Council estimated that approximately 770,000 Illinois residents could qualify to get their records cleared of low-level marijuana crimes.

But critics have voiced concerns. Republican Representative Norine Hammond noted concerns that former felons might be allowed to possess guns and dealers may have their records cleared, as well as the lack of a field sobriety test for pot.

Illinois is well on its way to becoming the 11th state to legalize recreational marijuana. It will be interesting to see if Missouri joins the trend by passing a bill legalizing the recreational use of marijuana.