Illinois Senate Approves Bill Legalizing Recreational Marijuana, State Would Be 11th To Do So

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Illinois’ Senate recently approved a bill legalizing recreational marijuana, moving the state one step closer to becoming the 11th state to fully legalize recreational pot, Springfield’s State Journal-Register reports.

Illinois already has a medical marijuana program in place, though it’s largely considered one of the strictest in the nation. However, Governor J.B. Pritzker has been pushing for his state’s legislature to put Illinois among Colorado, California, and other states that have fully legalized the plant for recreational use.

Illinois’ Senate and House have been willing to make that happen. However, as the old saying goes, the devil is in the details — and for weeks the three sides have been trying to hammer out a bill that pleases everybody.

In this particular case, one of the sticking points has been the status of the tens of thousands of Illinoisans currently engaged with criminal charges or convictions related to pot. House Bill 1438 would allow for the pardon of those with criminal records solely related to such charges, in addition to legalizing recreational pot.

Senate Democrat Toi Hutchinson, who is also the president of the National Conference of State Legislatures, said that the passage of this bill is nothing short of historic. “I would say that this is the largest piece of expungement in a criminal-justice reform aspect in the country — I would probably say in the world. There’s been nothing that’s been attempted to be this big in one piece of legislation, ever. We are standing on the step of history,” he said.

There were other details in the legislation that have been worked out, as well, such as limiting the number of plants Illinoisans can grow, allowing municipalities to ban marijuana dispensaries, and allowing workplaces to continue to test employees for pot, and to discipline them if said employees fail.

Further, the bill would allow Illinois residents to legally purchase and/or possess up to 30 grams of cannabis. Out-of-state residents would be allowed to purchase half of that.

If passed into law, the bill would take effect in January of 2020.

According to ProCon.org, 33 states have some form of legalized marijuana, either recreational or medical — although it bears noting that some states’ medical marijuana programs are so strict that they are effectively meaningless. Marijuana remains illegal, however, as a matter of federal law.

However, since the Obama administration, the federal government’s policy has been one of not interfering with state marijuana laws as long as certain conditions, such as keeping it out of the hands of children, are met. The Trump administration has, so far, continued that policy.