At the end of May, Illinois became the 11th state in the US to legalize recreational use of cannabis.
House Bill 1438 was passed by the Illinois House of Representatives in a 66-47 vote on May 31st of 2019 and as of June 26th, less than a month later, Governor J.B. Pritzker formally signed the bill. As of January 1 2020 recreational and medical cannabis use will be legal in the state of Illinois. This bill makes it legal for adults 21 and older to possess cannabis and those who use medical cannabis will now be able to cultivate privately from their homes. This across the board legalization also offers amnesty for individuals who have been criminally punished for cannabis possession, opening the opportunity for Governor Pritzker to pardon individuals upon review.
Simply put by Senator Toi Hutchinson of the 40th district, “One of the things that we wanted to make sure we accomplished with legalization was ensuring we put social equity at the center and the heart of our efforts, acknowledging that while we normalize and legalize something that is happening across the country, that we tie the direct nexus to the communities that the prohibition has hurt the most.” She went on to enforce this point in an interview with the Chicago Sun Times by illustrating the key aspect of this bill. “The most historic aspect of this is not just that it legalizes cannabis for adults but rather the extraordinary efforts it takes to reduce the harm caused by the failed war on marijuana and the communities it hurt the most”. The biggest gain of legislative cannabis legalization is the overarching movement to correct the damages that “the war on marijuana” has caused to many communities in the state.
In the scope of urban communities, many people have had their lives drastically changed because of marijuana convictions that would in the current day be minor offences in the most sever instances. Along with correcting damages, this bill has laid the groundwork to prevent future issues between law enforcement entities and legally abiding cannabis users when it comes to compliance transport and consumption regulations. This bill addresses new DUI conditions and established a task force lead by Illinois State Police to research the best practices in dealing with cannabis impaired drivers. This includes research into emergency technology and roadside testing. In addition to social issues being addressed, this bill creates a framework for would-be cannabis companies to cultivate and dispense cannabis by opening application procedures for obtaining licenses.
These procedures consist of a variety of fees like the $100,000 application fee and the cannabis business development fee that would be put back into government funding throughout the state. Cannabis industries have made a positive financial impact on communities in the past within states that have already legalized cannabis. As the green wave continues to move across the country the benefits of cannabis legalization become increasingly apparent and reinforced by years of data and research.