Landscape Changes Regarding Illinois Marijuana Laws

On May 29, the Illinois State Senate passed a bill that approved the use of recreational marijuana. Two days later, Michael Madigan and the House also voted in favor of this bill, confirming Illinois as the next state in the Union to go forward with legalization. With Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker having campaigned on the promise of legalizing recreational marijuana, many in the state are thrilled that it is now finally becoming a reality. However, as with any bill’s progress towards becoming law, there were several complications on the way to passing.

One such issue was in regards to an Illinois citizen’s right to grow their own cannabis at their place of residence. This issue has appeared in several other states, and as such each state has their own laws in regards to “home growing.” For instance, while the state of Alaska allows the growth and possession of up to six marijuana plants, the state of Connecticut does not permit any home growth. As of now, the Illinois State Legislation has settled on allowing only medical-marijuana patients to cultivate their own cannabis, as opposed to allowing the previously suggested “universal home cultivation.”

Opponents of home cultivation argue that this would only motivate black market sales of the plant to continue to thrive; conversely, supporters believe that less restrictions are the best option for business owners and believe that they should be allowed to grow it as well as sell it.

As legalizing Marijuana has remained one of Governor Pritzker’s top priorities, it is no surprise that recreational legalization took place soon into the governor’s first term. In a statement regarding the issue, Pritzker said, “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.”

Of course, recreational legalization overall was not without opposition in the state. Several Illinois Lawmakers have stated that they believed this legalization would result in higher usage and therefore prove to be hazardous to the public. Several alterations that were made to the bill were done so to address the concerns of the opposition. One such change involves the concerns of impaired driving; a DUI Task Force led by Illinois State Police is in place to be established in order to combat this likelihood.

On May 4, Governor Pritzker took the first step in what was thought to be lengthy process by approving the right of citizens over 21 to buy from licensed dispensaries. With the bill moving swiftly through the Illinois legislature, it is likely that other issues will soon be addressed as well in the very near future, such as criminal expungement.

Laws regarding allowing recreational cannabis are to be enacted within 7 months, likely beginning in January 2020.