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Illinois Leads the Nation in Progressive Cannabis Reform

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Illinois Leads the Nation in Progressive Cannabis Reform

Illinois has put the rest of the nation to shame when it comes to cannabis legalization and reform. New legislation taking effect in 2020 will create a booming marijuana industry and expunge the record of individuals with cannabis-related convictions.

Illinois is doing more than just legalizing recreational marijuana — they’re passing some of the most sensible, progressive cannabis legislation in the nation. Unlike the ten other states that passed recreational cannabis through ballot initiatives, Illinois has become the first state to legalize via their state legislature.

“Together we just accomplished one of the most ambitious and consequential legislative sessions in this state’s history,” Governor J.B. Pritzker said in a tweet. Illinois became the 11th state to legalize cannabis by a 66 to 47 vote in the state House and 38-17 in the Senate. This legislation will go into effect on January 1, 2020.

How will this legislation affect the cannabis industry?

The legal cannabis program, launching in 2020, will allow adults 21 and older to buy marijuana from licensed retailers. To meet the expected demand for recreational cannabis, the state will license an additional 200 dispensaries for marijuana products. Some analysts estimate there could be as many as 295 cannabis retailers by 2022.

Industry experts predict that the cannabis industry in Illinois will become one of the most lucrative markets in the nation. Recreational marijuana is expected to bring approximately $1.6 billion in revenue to Illinois in just one year. This new booming industry will also create tens of thousands of opportunities for employment.

(Micheal Goulding – Orange County Register)

Beyond growth in the job sector, this legislation can help generate useful tax dollars. The profits brought in from taxing cannabis can be significant for states. Washington and California both pulled in over $300 million from their legal cannabis sales in 2018. Other states closely following behind include Colorado at $266.6 million, Oregon at $94.4 million, Nevada at $69.8 million, Alaska at $11 million, and Massachusetts at $5.2 million. All cannabis flower or products with less than 35% THC will be taxed at 10%, edibles taxed at 20%, and products with 35% THC or higher taxed at 25%.

How will this legislation affect cannabis convictions?

For 770,000 Illinois residents with cannabis-related convictions, the passage of this bill is more than just legalization, it’s a clean slate. The legislation will expunge the records of individuals with marijuana convictions as long as they are non-violent offenders.

“The state of Illinois just made history, legalizing adult-use cannabis with the most equity-centric approach in the nation,” Governor Pritzker wrote on his Facebook page. “This will have a transformational impact on our state, creating opportunity in the communities that need it most and giving so many a second chance.”

(Bill Clark – CQ Roll Call)

Taxes from recreational cannabis sales will cover any expungement costs. “By committing funds to remove past marijuana-related convictions, the state has prioritized equity and the removal of barriers that prevent people from moving forward in their lives,” stated Robert Rooks, Vice President of Alliance for Safety and Justice. While this bill may not be perfect, and certainly doesn’t fix every injustice, it is a step in the right direction.

Bill details and restrictions

While this legislation is quite progressive, there are still several restrictions and safeguards in place. Individual businesses, landlords, and colleges can still prohibit cannabis use on private property. Currently, employers can still discriminate against cannabis users. The law would allow state residents to hold up to about one ounce of cannabis at a time; tourists are permitted to hold about a half ounce at a time. Medical cannabis patients will still be allowed to grow their own plants, but recreational users will not be permitted to grow.

Due to the federal illegality of marijuana, cannabis products cannot be transported over state lines. You also can’t use cannabis in any public place, such as streets or parks, or in any motor vehicle. With the exception of medical users, marijuana products also cannot be consumed on school grounds. Cannabis use is not permitted near someone under the age of 21 or near on-duty police officers, firefighters, corrections officers, and even school bus drivers.

The bottom line for this bill

While other states have legalized recreational marijuana, none of them have done it as successfully as Illinois. This legislation will generate substantial revenue and tax dollars, build up businesses and employment, and expunge unjust convictions. Hopefully, other states will listen up and take notice when they push for their own cannabis legalization and reform.


Joe Evans is a freelance writer, editor, journalist with over 4,000 published articles under his byline all over the web. He enjoys covering politics and culture. When he's not playing with his three dogs and spending time with family, he's probably watching sports.


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