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Illinois To Be 11th State To Legalize Cannabis

The bill now goes to Gov. J.B. Pritzker for his expected signature

Illinois is likely to become the 11th state to allow small amounts of marijuana for recreational use after the Democratic-controlled House on Friday sent a legalization plan to Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who campaigned on the issue.

Those 21 and older would be able to buy marijuana at licensed dispensaries beginning next year under the legislation approved on a vote of 66-47. Residents could possess up to 1 ounce (30 grams) and non-residents could have 15 grams.

Illinois would become the second state to endorse the idea through its legislature, following Vermont last year. Ten states and the District of Columbia have dropped pot prohibitions, mostly through ballot initiatives.

But the Illinois plan also became a social justice initiative as black lawmakers and activists stepped in to see that legalization reversed decades of inordinate treatment of minorities in narcotics crackdowns. The legislation provides for scrubbing of past low-level criminal convictions and boosts minority involvement in a nascent industry.

“It is time to hit the ‘reset’ button on the War on Drugs,” the proposal’s sponsor, Chicago Democratic Rep. Kelly Cassidy, said. “We have an opportunity today to set the gold standard for a regulated market that centers on equity and repair.”

Pritzker called for legalization in his campaign for governor, arguing for its tax-revenue potential and for freeing police to enforce more serious crimes. He claimed there would be $170 million in licensing fees in the first year and a fully established industry could produce up to $1 billion annually in state tax revenue. But Cassidy said Friday the first year’s take would be $58 million and the state could expect $500 million in five years.

The vote came on the last day of the General Assembly’s spring session, which got extended in part because of the 3 ½-hour marijuana debate. House leaders, noting the “volume of workload,” announced that session would continue at least through Sunday. The Senate had not announced schedule changes.


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