Illinois Takes The 11th Seat In Legalizing Marijuana

It seems as if east coast lawmakers have found it extremely difficult to create a well-curated cannabis legislation. New York and New Jersey have been working hard on this bill, while just last week, Illinois dropped the most progressive cannabis bill, upstaging everyone else. Governor J.B. Pritzker (D) will be signing the bill into law, thereby adding Illinois as the 11th state out of 50 in the United States to legalize cannabis. They are the first to legalize adult use cannabis through lawmakers as opposed to a voter-approved ballot!

“The state of Illinois just made history, legalizing adult-use cannabis with the most equity-centric approach in the nation,” Governor Pritzker said on Twitter, “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”

The House of Representatives voted in favor of the bill with 66 to 47 votes, which was two days after the Senate approved it with 38 to 17 votes. The legislation will take effect January 2020 allowing people ages twenty-one and older to possess, consume and purchase cannabis from licensed retailers. The state will also be giving existing medicinal cannabis businesses a head start in getting licensed. The legislation contains multiple social equity provisions which include “expunging what they estimate would be 800,000 low-level drug convictions” and the revenue gained from the cannabis market will be used towards communities that have been affected by the nation’s war on drugs.

“Illinois is going to have the most equity-centric law in the nation,” Pritzker said at the Black United Fund of Illinois on Chicago’s South Side.

This is a huge step for the future of cannabis in our nation. Illinois has “set a standard of excellence with this bill that other states seeking to pass similar legislation should follow,” said by Steve Hawkins, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, in a press release.

What Does This Mean For New York And New Jersey?

New York and New Jersey are supposed to be the next states to legalize cannabis, but both have failed to secure votes. For New Jersey, lawmakers threw in the towel because they had a hard time composing a bill that satisfied everyone. They did, however, take initiative in improving their medicinal cannabis program by increasing the number of cannabis-related businesses in the marketplace. It’s one small step at a time for the Garden State. They definitely need to take some notes from Illinois who upstaged both states in the race to legalize adult use cannabis.

For New York, legalizing cannabis was supposed to be a guarantee for 2019. Governor Cuomo used to oppose the legalization of cannabis until the end of 2018 when he had a change of heart. He spoke about the implementation social equity systems because for too long the law had been targeting Black and other minority communities. However, no one could come to an agreement, and as a result legalization isn’t possible this year.

It’s a sad time for all the New Yorkers and New Jerseyan out there. Hey, maybe next year? 

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