With a bill expected to be filed in the Illinois Senate Monday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said he hopes recreational marijuana will be legal in Illinois by January.
The 522-page cannabis bill was slated to be filed by the end of the day and includes automatically expunging marijuana possession convictions.
The legislation would allow adults 21 and older to legally buy cannabis for recreational use from licensed dispensaries. Illinois residents could possess up to about an ounce of marijuana, while non-residents could possess about half an ounce.
Pritzker is already counting on the annual tax revenue from recreational cannabis, estimating it will add up to $170 million in revenue from licensing and fees for next year’s budget. Opponents are concerned there are not enough safeguards in place.
“there is revenue,” Pritzker said. “We can bring it into the light of day.”
Medical marijuana is already available in Illinois. The latest proposal would include expunging roughly 800,000 marijuana convictions.
“Our office has already stopped prosecuting low-level marijuana offenses, so prospectively, the numbers will continue to dwindle,” said Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx.
Resident would be able to grow up to five plants in a secure location inside their homes, according to the proposal.
“They’re going to be growing it on the back porch and selling it on the front porch,” said State Rep. Marty Moyland.
Addiction specialists also warn that a change in drug policies should “reduce drug use, not increase it.”
“This bill will increase it,” said Dr. Aaron Weiner.
Chicago Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot said she supports the proposal, saying the state’s drug policy has disproportionately affected Chicago’s black and brown neighborhoods.
“Cannabis is widely available, yet you don’t know what you’re getting, yet you don’t know who you’re getting it from,” Pritzker said. “We ought to regulate it. And make sure it’s safe.”
If it passes, Illinois would join 10 other states, including neighboring Michigan, in legalizing recreational marijuana. While the Illinois law would take effect Jan. 1, the first licenses for Illinois growers, processors and dispensaries wouldn't be issued until May and July 2020, the governor's office said.