By: Justin McNaughton, Senior Counsel Update 6/25/2019: Governor Pritzker signed the bill into law saying, “This legislation brings an important and overdue change to our state, and it’s the right thing to do.”
Although the final bill is waiting signature from the governor, as of May 31, 2019, Illinois is poised to move forward as the eleventh state to legalize adult use marijuana. Illinois has allowed medical marijuana in the state since 2013. The new statute would take effect on January 1, 2020 and has two primary parts: (1) it will overturn the conviction of any person who was convicted in the past of possession of 30 grams of marijuana or less and expunge the record through clemency granted by the governor; and (2) it will allow anyone 21 and over to buy and possess up to 30 grams of cannabis, 500 milligrams of THC (if in infused products), or up to five grams of concentrate.
What makes Illinois unusual is that it used an ordinary lawmaking approach to enact its program where legislators approved the new law rather than through a voter referendum as in all other states (except Vermont).
The new bill allows employers to maintain “drug-free” workplaces and landlords to prohibit possession on their properties, and it allows individual communities to prohibit or allow cannabis dispensaries. 25% of the estimated $500M in tax revenue the new program is expected to generate must be reinvested in low-income, minority neighborhoods. Governor Pritzker said about the bill: “Illinois is poised to become the first state in the nation that put equity and criminal justice reform at the heart of its approach to legalizing cannabis, and I’m grateful that the Senate has taken this important step with a bipartisan vote.”
The bill was approved on the final day of the legislative session on Friday, May 31, 2019.