Illinois frees up the weed

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

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ILLINOIS, USA AP) — Illinois' new governor delivered on a top campaign promise yesterday by signing legislation making the state the 11th to approve marijuana for recreational use in a programme offering legal remedies and economic benefits to minorities whose lives critics say were damaged by a wayward war on drugs.

Legalisation in Illinois also means that nearly 800,000 people with criminal records for purchasing or possessing 30 grams of marijuana or less may have those records expunged, a provision minority lawmakers and interest groups demanded. It also gives cannabis-vendor preference to minority owners and promises 25 per cent of tax revenue from marijuana sales to redevelop impoverished communities.

Governor J B Pritzker, whose election last year gave Democrats complete control over state government again after four years under GOP predecessor Bruce Rauner, signed the bill in Chicago amid a bevy of pot proponents, including the plan's lead sponsors, Rep Kelly Cassidy and Senator Heather Steans, both Chicago Democrats.

“Today, we're hitting the 'reset' button on the war on drugs,” Cassidy said.

Residents may purchase and possess up to one ounce (30 grams) of marijuana at a time. Non-residents may have 15 grams. The law provides for cannabis purchases by adults 21 and older at approved dispensaries, which, after they're licensed and established, may start selling January 1, 2020. Possession remains a crime until January 1, a spokesman for Senate Democrats said.

“The war on cannabis has destroyed families, filled prisons with non-violent offenders, and disproportionately disrupted black and brown communities,” Pritzker said. “Law enforcement across the nation has spent billions of dollars to enforce the criminalisation of cannabis, yet its consumption remains widespread.”

On the campaign trail, Pritzker claimed that, once established, taxation of marijuana could generate $800 million to $1 billion a year. He said dispensary licensing would bring in $170 million in the coming year alone. But Cassidy and Steans have dampened that prediction, lowering estimates to $58 million in the first year and $500 million annually within five years.

Carrying the psychoactive ingredient THC, marijuana was effectively outlawed in the US in 1937 and in the 1970s was declared a drug with no medicinal purpose and high potential for abuse.


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