Illinois Legalizes Recreational Marijuana Sales

It's the first time a state has legalized the commercial sale of cannabis through the legislature.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) signed a bill on Tuesday legalizing the possession and sale of cannabis, making the state the first in the U.S. to pass a comprehensive legal pot sales measure through the legislature instead of as a ballot initiative.

The state House of Representatives voted 66 to 47 to pass the legislation last month, two days after the Senate approved it, 38-17.

Pritzker applauded lawmakers’ approval of the bill in a Twitter thread.

The new law, expected to go into effect on Jan. 1, permits residents 21 and older to possess up to 30 grams of cannabis and sets other parameters for weed products. Under the law, nonresidents may possess 15 grams of pot.

The measure also includes provisions for the governor to pardon people with low-level cannabis convictions in an effort to address the ways in which communities of color have been disproportionately harmed by pot laws. 

People with prior convictions for possession of up to 30 grams of cannabis may have their records expunged through a gubernatorial pardon as long as the crime was not associated with violence. Those convicted of crimes involving up to 500 grams could also petition the court to have their convictions vacated.

Altogether, nearly 770,000 cannabis-related cases could be eligible for expungement under the new law, according to the Illinois State Policy Advisory Council.

“Illinois has put in place a set of equity provisions that should serve as a national model for other state legislatures grappling with how to redress the harm caused to communities targeted in the drug war,” Steve Hawkins, executive director for the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a statement.

The legislation also includes a social equity program geared toward helping small, minority-owned businesses to enter the weed market through a system of grants and loans. 

Illinois is the 11th state to legalize cannabis for adult use and the first to approve commercial sales of the plant through the legislature. Vermont passed a cannabis possession law in 2018, but commercial sale is still prohibited.