Illinois governor approves bill to legalize recreational marijuana

Gov. J. B. Pritzker signs a bill that legalizes adult-use cannabis in the state of Illinois at Sankofa Cultural Arts and Business Center in Chicago. Illinois becomes the 11th to legalize the adult-use of recreational marijuana, Tuesday, June 25, 2019 | AP Photo/Amr Alfiky

Illinois is now the 11th state to legalize marijuana for adult use, and the first to do so through the state legislature.

Their new governor, J.B. Pritzker, followed through with a campaign promise to legalize cannabis by signing HB 1438 on Tuesday, reports CBS News.

Beginning on January 1, Illinois adults aged 21 and over will be allowed to possess up to 30 grams of cannabis, while adult visitors from out of state will be allowed to possess up to 15 grams. Only medical marijuana patients will be permitted to grow up to five plants at home, as home-grown plants for recreational use will not be allowed. Cannabis flower tested under 35 percent THC will be taxed at 10 percent, while products that contain over 35 percent THC, such as vape oils and concentrates, will be taxed at 25 percent. Cannabis-infused edibles, topicals, and other products will be taxed at 20 percent.

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The legalization bill also comes with a racial justice provision that will expunge nearly 800,000 people from criminal convictions involving marijuana possession and sales.

“Studies have shown time and time again that black and white people tend to use cannabis at the same rates, but black people are far more likely to be arrested for possession,” Pritzker said. “Criminalization offers nothing but pain, disruption, and injustice. The legislators and activists standing with me today have heard you.”

The new law will ensure that at least 20 percent of new licenses for social use sales will go to people of color, with an allotment of $30 million available to help minority business owners.

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“I am hopeful that this thoughtful legislation coupled with resources and support, like the Cannabis Business Development Fund and the Restore, Reinvest, and Renew Program, improves the representation of minorities as business owners in the industry and reinvesting in disadvantaged communities,” said Shanita Penny, president of the Oregon-based Minority Cannabis Business Association, to Rolling Stone. “It certainly goes further than what we’ve seen in other states and could be, as they promised, a new standard for equitable legalization.”

Cannabis reform advocates say the bill is another step in the right direction, as lawmakers are now working to legalize, rather than leaving the decision up to the voting public.

“This is a major milestone for the movement to end marijuana prohibition in the United States. It is the clearest sign yet that lawmakers are catching up with the people on this issue,” said Mason Tvert, who helped create Colorado’s first-in-the-nation cannabis system in 2014, in a statement to press. “A strong and steadily growing majority of Americans support legalization, and observers have wondered when it would start translating into major victories in state legislatures. Illinois just answered that question.”

Oscar Pascual is the editor of Smell the Truth, syndicated on GreenState and SFGATE. Smell The Truth is one of the internet’s most popular destinations for cannabis-related news and culture. This blog is not written or edited by Hearst. The authors are solely responsible for the content.