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Illinois: The 11th State to Legalize Recreational Use of Marijuana

Current issues on the war on drugs have caused divisions between people of different color and race. It has brought destruction between communities, particularly racial differences in the prosecution of drug crime trials. To legalize the use of marijuana would be to reduce discriminating confinement and rebuild communities by helping those who were greatly affected by the war on drugs. Now, the Illinois lawmakers have made a move in addressing this matter.

Recently, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker took a step towards achieving his campaign pledge on legalizing the recreational use of marijuana. According to him, legalizing this bill would be “the most equity-centric approach in the nation.” With a two-party voting result of 66-47, the Illinois House approved the bill of legalizing marijuana. The governor’s signature has made Illinois the first state to establish a recreational marijuana industry through the legislative rather than by voter initiative.

The bill would help restore the communities destroyed because of the war on drugs, particularly on racial inequalities in drug crime trials. Those prosecuted for possessing or utilizing marijuana would be given a chance to start anew. The bill would also pave the way for communities to start a business, subsequently addressing poverty.

The bill consists of 300 pages and is said to take effect on January 1, 2020. This provision would allow citizens 21 years and older to possess 30g cannabis flower, 5g cannabis concentrate, and half a gram of cannabis-infused product. Non-residents are only allowed 15g.

Over 800,000 cannabis-related cases would be toned down, and a $20 million loan budget would be allotted for those who were convicted, to enter the licensed industry.

However, the proposal was pushed back by concerns from opponents regarding health and addiction issues. Concerns involving teenagers getting high while driving or the establishment of an industry that may produce another harmful, addictive drug, was also cited.

The proposal was revised to gain extensive support of the bill. The possession of homegrown cannabis would be limited. A task force through the Illinois State Police would be implemented to determine laws and policies to be enforced. The use of the substance in the workplace would not be tolerated, and strict monitoring for marijuana-related businesses would be imposed.

The revision garnered more supporters including Rep. David Welter of Morris, who signed as a co-sponsor. According to him, prohibition didn’t work, and at some point, something has to be done. Through the legalization of marijuana, its use would be controlled, taxed, and regulated, thereby providing a safer market.

During the bill’s discussion regarding the provisions on reducing or eliminating cases involving the use or possession of marijuana, Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth, a Peoria Democrat, said that it was her first time to encounter minor communities prioritized over major policy decisions. Through this, the individual involved may start with a clean slate, opening educational and career opportunities and be lifted from poverty.

The bill would also provide funds for programs helping communities who were unfairly affected by the war on drugs.

Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx spoke in favor of the bill. Still, on the issue of racial disparity, she guaranteed that the office would continue to look for ways to offer assistance other than that of the legislation.

Dan Linn, the executive director for Illinois NORML, expressed his concern on the supply of the medical marijuana program. Mainly on the supplies that would be produced by licensed manufacturers and marijuana growers by the time the first legal sales start.

Regulatory costs and costs related to the reduction of conviction cases involving the usage and possession of marijuana will be paid for. The remaining proceeds would be divided into six areas. Thirty-five percent, the largest share would be allotted for the state’s general fund; 25% would be for community grants; 20% would be given to mental health and substance abuse programs; 10% for the state’s unpaid bills; 8% for law enforcement; and 2% for public education.

At the end of May, the state legislators stop meeting. If the bill passes the requirements by then, it will take effect on January of 2020. Issuing of a license to dispense marijuana would begin in May of next year. Companies that would plant, manufacture and transport this substance would be issued with licenses starting July 2020. The next issuance of licenses would be in 2021.

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