Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker has officially signed legislation that legalizes adult-use cannabis in his state. Starting January 1, 2020, Illinois adults will be able to carry up to 30 grams of marijuana on them legally; non-residents of the state can carry up to 15 grams.
With the Governor’s signature, Illinois became the 11th state to legalize cannabis for recreational use, the second to do so via the legislature and the first to legalize sales via the legislature. Unfortunately, a provision that would have allowed adults to grow up to 5 plants in their home was scrapped before the final bill; medical marijuana patients will be allowed to grow 5 plants though, something they could not do before, and all adults will face reduced penalties if they do decide to grow personal amounts of cannabis and get caught (a $200 fine instead of the current $2,500 fine and up to one year in jail).
The new law will also allow up to 800,000 criminal records to be expunged, as long as the charges were for under 30 grams of marijuana.
“Today, Illinois residents and political leaders demonstrated the power of democracy in action, using the political process to achieve sensible policies that protect individual freedoms and that ensure community safety,” NORML Political Director Justin Strekal said in a statement. “Governor Pritzker and legislators in Illinois have laid out a path forward for states like New York, New Jersey, and others to emulate in the national movement towards comprehensive marijuana law reform.”
Illinois also becomes the second large, industrial Midwestern state to legalize adult-use marijuana in the last year (the other being Michigan via the ballot box last November). This could have a huge impact as it shows that legalization is not just something that is happening in certain parts of the country, but is possible all over the U.S.
Of course, more needs to be done – in Illinois and other states, as well as at the federal level – and there is no time to waste. Millions of people around the country suffer simply because marijuana is prohibited or severely restricted in their area. They are criminalized and forced to seek illegal means to make a safer choice when it comes to the substances they will ingest.
Marijuana law reform is a long, hard road, but we have no choice but to travel it.