With eight states and D.C. allowing the legal possession, use and sale of marijuana for adults, it is starting to become more and more true that it’s “only a matter of time” before legalization is a reality for every state. However, some states are taking faster strides towards this end than others. Illinois is one of the latest states to have legalization legislation introduced during this spring session – and they will have two opportunities to make cannabis legal as nearly identical bills were introduced in both the Senate and the House, giving them a better chance at passing and becoming law.
Both House Bill 2353 would add a constitutional amendment for the state of Illinois, making marijuana legalization a permanent part of the state’s legal structure. It would allow for adults 21 and older to possess, purchase and cultivate medical marijuana – but sales would be restricted to licensed retail cultivation and dispensing facilities. Things such as smoking (or any form of using cannabis) would still be illegal while driving and while in public – and it would be fined at a maximum of $100.
“Legalizing and taxing marijuana will not and should not solve all of our budget woes, but it should be a part of the conversation about resolving Illinois’ worsening budget problems. Every bit of new revenue will help to close the governor’s $5 billion budget gap,” Senator Heather Steans said.
Senate Bill 316 sets up pretty much the exact same structure. Both pieces of legislature allow for up to 28 grams (or about an ounce) of marijuana for personal possession, and both create a licensed commercial cannabis industry and regulate the production and sale of cannabis in a manner similar to how alcohol is regulated. If either one of the bills manages to make it through legislature and becomes law, then it would allow law enforcement to focus on real crimes, saving thousands of dollars, while also producing revenue to help bring the state’s budget in line.
“Marijuana prohibition is a quagmire that creates far more problems than it prevents,” Rep. Kelly Cassidy, who introduced the bill in the House, said in a statement to the Marijuana Policy Project. “Several states have adopted sensible alternatives to prohibition, and it is time for Illinois to develop its own exit strategy. Regulating marijuana and removing the criminal element from marijuana production and sales will make our communities safer.”
Hopefully one (or both) of these bills will receive the support it needs in both chambers in order for legalization to take place. If either were to pass, it would allow time for regulations to be put into place before a commercial market could open for business – but the benefits far outweigh any fears that the opposition can throw their way. Hopefully, lawmakers in Illinois have realized that this is the right thing for their state after watching other states have so much success with voter approved amendments and measures to legalize cannabis.