Full Illinois Legislature Votes to Legalize Marijuana

The Illinois House of Representatives, by a vote of 66 to 47 vote, has approved a measure to legalize marijuana which has already passed the Senate, reports Reuters.

Democratic Governor J.B. Pritzker said he will sign the bill, which allows for previous convictions dealing with amounts of marijuana under 30 grams to be erased, and which could eventually generate as much as $500 million in new annual revenue for the financially troubled state.

“In the interest of equity and criminal justice reform, I look forward to signing this monumental legislation,” Pritzker said in a statement.

Illinois will be the second state to legalize small amounts of marijuana for adult use solely through the legislative process, following Vermont, which did so in 2018. Since 2012, voters in nine states and Washington, D.C. approved legalization measures, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

“It is time to hit the reset button on the war on drugs,” said Democratic State Representative Kelly Cassidy, the bill’s House sponsor, adding that the measure, which would take effect Jan. 1, would set the “gold standard” for a regulated market.

According to Reuters, opponents raised health, safety and financial concerns over legalizing marijuana.

“My goodness, there sure seems to be a lot of red flags on this issue,” said Republican State Representative Mark Batinick.

The legislation will raise about $57 million in new revenue in fiscal 2020, which begins on July 1, and as much as $500 million annually when fully implemented, according to its sponsors.

The bill earmarks some of the proceeds after administrative and other expenses for drug prevention, public safety and programs in disadvantaged communities, while 35% will flow into Illinois’ general fund and 10% will be used to pay overdue bills incurred by the state.

Pritzker included new revenue from legalized marijuana in his nearly $39 billion proposed fiscal 2020 budget.

In addition to Vermont, states that have legalized recreational marijuana are Colorado, Washington, Oregon, California, Alaska, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada and Michigan.

The use of marijuana for medical purposes, which Illinois authorized starting in 2014, is legal in 23 states.

About Emily Watkins 156 Articles
Emily Watkins is a PhD student majoring in public policy. Emily has been a freelance editor for multiple websites, and has spent hundreds of hours volunteering to help legalize marijuana. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, and can be reached at Watkins.MarijuanaHerald@gmail.com