Illinois is on the verge of making cannabis history. A new bill to legalize recreational marijuana was recently approved by the House of Representatives.
It has since been passed on to the governor. And if he signs it into law, Illinois will become the first state to legalize entirely through the legislature. Additionally, it will also make Illinois one of the leaders when it comes to allowing for prior weed convictions to be cleared from people’s records.
Illinois House Bill 1438
Illinois’s legalization bill, House Bill 1438, would introduce a number of big changes to the state. Some of the most important include:
- Adults 21 and older will be allowed to possess up to 30 grams of weed.
- Non-residents who are visiting the state would be allowed to possess roughly half the amount of cannabis as residents.
- The state would establish a taxed and regulated retail industry.
- As of now, lawmakers plan on instituting a 10% tax on products with less than 35% THC. Beyond that, products with more THC will be taxed at higher rates of up to 25% or more.
- It will still be illegal to consume weed in public.
- It will also be illegal to drive while high.
The bill has so far received broad support from lawmakers. Most recently, the House approved it with a 66-47 vote.
Now, House Bill 1438 has been sent over to Governor J. B. Pritzker. He is expected to sign it into law. But it is currently unclear when he will sign the bill.
Pritzker has been a big advocate of legalization, having made it part of his platform when running for the governor’s office.
An “Equity-Centric” Legalization Bill
Arguably the most important components of the bill have to do with what Pritzker called an “equity-centric approach” to legalization.
“The state of Illinois just made history, legalizing adult-use cannabis with the most equity-centric approach in the nation,” Pritzker wrote on Facebook. “This will have a transformational impact on our state, creating opportunity in the communities that need it most and giving so many a second chance.”
This equity-centric approach is aimed at addressing the various harms of the war on drugs. Specifically, the ways that prohibition has disproportionately harmed people and communities of color.
To accomplish this objective, the new bill will allow for certain weed-related criminal records to be cleared. Specifically, people with prior convictions for possessing small amounts of weed will be able to get their records cleared, if the original conviction was not associated with a violent crime.
According to ABC News, there are around 770,000 people in Illinois who would immediately qualify for this.
Additionally, the bill is supposed to include provisions to allow priority entry into the industry for minorities.
“Decades of prohibition hasn’t stopped used, prohibition hasn’t made us safer,” Illinois Representative Kelly Cassidy said. “Prohibition hasn’t built communities—in fact, it has destroyed them. Prohibition hasn’t created jobs, in fact, it has prevented people from finding work.”She added: “Ending prohibition will allow us to bring this out of the shadows. Impose reasonable and thoughtful regulation and bring assurance of a tested and safer product.”