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Surprise! Illinois Becomes the 11th Cannabis Legalization State

May 31, 2019
Legal cannabis and automatix expungements could become law in Illinois this year. (SpVVK/iStock)
Legal cannabis with automatic expungements could become law in Illinois this year. (SpVVK/iStock)
In a dramatic, come-from-behind upset over the state of New York, the massive Midwest state of Illinois finished work on a bill to legalize cannabis for adults and sent it to Governor J.B. Pritzker for signing today.

This afternoon, the Illinois House passed HB 1438 to legalize cannabis for adults 21 and older on a 66 to 47 vote. The bill had already passed the Senate and just needs Gov. Pritzker’s signature to become law.

Gov. Pritzker has said he’ll sign the bill, stating, “The state of Illinois just made history, legalizing adult-use cannabis with the most equity-centric approach in the nation. 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.”

“In the interest of equity and criminal justice reform, I look forward to signing this monumental legislation,” Gov. Pritzker tweeted this afternoon.

Adults 21 and older can legally hold up to a 30-day supply of cannabis (one ounce), and tourists can legally hold 15 grams.

Those with past convictions for possession of less than 30 grams of cannabis can get their records cleared.

The system is similar to other states, with licensed adult-use retail outlets. Adult-use cannabis sales could net Illinois about $500 million annually.


Illinois’ New Legalization Bill Looks Pretty Rad

Drug law reformers celebrated the crucial win in the Midwest, but said more work needs to be done after legislative compromises.

“Cannabis criminalization in Illinois is coming to an end. While this bill isn’t perfect, it does provide a pathway for adults to legally obtain and consume cannabis. It also expands access and rights for qualified medical patients. Importantly, the bill provides much needed relief to those most harmed by the legacy of prohibition and emphasizes giving those who have been most harmed by cannabis criminalization preference in establishing a foothold in this new industry,” said Illinois NORML Executive Director Dan Linn.

“We are confident that this is the best bill we could get through the legislature at this time, but are adamant that Illinois must enact additional protections in the future, in particular the right of adults to homegrow personal use amounts of cannabis,” he added.

“Today’s outcome is the result of years of volunteers educating the public and lobbying lawmakers in Illinois. This process has not been easy, but it does reflect what dedicated citizens can accomplish if they engage in the political process,” concluded Linn.

“We’re going to be able to look back five years from now and see that the quality of life in disadvantaged communities has been made better because of this legislation,” said Chicago NORML Executive Director Edie Moore.

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David Downs

David Downs directs news and lifestyle coverage as the California Bureau Chief for He's written for WIRED, Rolling Stone and Billboard, and is the former cannabis editor of the San Francisco Chronicle, as well as the author of several cannabis books including 'Marijuana Harvest' by Ed Rosenthal and David Downs. He co-hosts The Hash podcast. TW: @davidrdowns | IG @daviddowns

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  • Hustla

    One small step in the right direction..

    • Marilyn

      What more steps would you like for them to take?

      • Hustla

        Think bigger..

        • Marilyn

          People in IL are lucky they have this much passed. In AZ I still have to rely on my medical card and when I travel to IL I can’t buy any there since they do not accept out of state cards so I either drive or chance taking it on the plane and being one of the only people that gets an azzhole of a TSA agent lol

      • Gary Sizemore

        Home grows. One ounce is all they can have. How about 8, like we have in Oklahoma?

        • Truckin Steveo

          They will not allow home grow in Illinois..

          • Gary Sizemore

            Well, you asked what was missing, and that’s it! For the first time, I’m happy I live in OK and not Illinois.

  • familyguy

    Thank god for Illinois residents and it’s state officials. I wish my state would do the same, unfortunately, I happen to live in a red state with reefer madness ideology. I will be visiting Illinois often!

    • videosavant

      The first thing to understand here is that IL has no money ($15 billion in unpaid vendor bills and a state employee and teacher pension system that is more than 75 percent underfunded). As a result, the primary motivation for legalization is that they see a big pot of money (no pun) for the taking.

      Think that’s hyperbole or negative thinking? Illinois is already home to the most expensive medical marijuana in the country. A gram of moderate quality flower typically sells for $20 a gram, eighths at $50-60 and ounces at $400+.

      Nice bedside manner there.

      Probably the most troubling aspect of the legalization bill is that it will limit the number of recreational dispensaries by region. For example, the Chicago-Elgin-Naperville region will be limited to just 47 recreational dispensaries (population: 9 million), the Metro-East (St. Louis area, 500,000 in IL, total area 3.5 million) will be limited to four dispensaries, and smaller areas (and college campus sites) Carbondale and Champaign will be limited to a single recreational dispensary. Many rural areas will have no prospect of having a nearby source for legal cannabis.

      I hear lots of caterwauling about local governments in other legal states having the power to “opt out” of allowing cannabis dispensaries within the city limits. Well, that won’t be a problem in Illinois, because the state in its omnipotent understanding of all things has determined exactly how much demand there will be for recreational cannabis.

      The track record here is not encouraging. Look, I’m solidly pro-legalization, but what Illinois has done and will do in rolling out recreational MJ will be a border-to-border-to- border dumpster fire.

      Unfortunately, it can be no other way in Illinois.

      • Marilyn

        Best thing I did was leave the sh***le state

      • Tony Matthews

        I live i. The Tampa Bay Area down in Florida. I moved out of Lasalle county when I just turned 16…I still have family up there so I can’t tell you how stoked I am to go up next year and be able to participate in a state that is recreational legally, BETTER yet its my home state ohhhhh the visits will be filled with new activities!!! I can definately understand them taxing the shit out of MJ since its been out to see exactly how well it is generating net growth for the state itself. But! I am honestly hoping that with it going recreational and insurance companies won’t be participating in those sales, and the fact that sales are going to absolutely sky rocket because literally in Illinois people have nothing better to do besides smoke weed, drink beer, & work! Lol I’m hoping once’s it gets all rolled out that prices will come down a litlle simply because the fact that the overall sales of MJ will probably turn into the states biggest cash cow! With that being said, I’m absolutely positive more dispensaries will be rolled out as well over the years just from the sheer demand! Lmao god!! Whoever lives in Decatur lemme know where the best dispensary is around there! My sister just moved to forsyth!! Congratulations to those who live in my home state!! Now if they could just bring down their taxes and not be so broke maybe I’ll move back in my adult life…Florida sucks for raising families lmao and we still don’t have recreational!! fuckin A man we all know the mold mother fuckers are smoking…everyone smokes in Florida but are too embarrassed to too snooty to make it public I swear!!!


  • Bryan Burcham

    I agree homegrowth is needed to make this law right. I live in Decatur…was raided in a no knock mid day raid, where myself and my pregnant nude wife were forced to the ground and held at gunpoint…for 2 plants and less than 30 grams of leaves waiting to be destroyed. Until I can grow marijuana for personal use as a beer drinker can grow corn and brew in their basement or a cigar enthusiast can grow tobacco and roll their own box pressed cigars, this bill fails to meet the mark.

    But we have to start somewhere.

    • Marilyn

      Problem might be you live in Decatur? MOVE

    • Tony Matthews

      My sister just moved to Forsyth my brother in law is working at the CAT plant up there…I’m so stoked to go back up now and not have to worry about traveling with it or if my old buddies got a good hook up if I run out haha!!!

  • Mauricio Massa

    Thank you Illinois! I love Chicago!

  • Billy

    In NY state we have a duty to dump these democrats once and for all! Schumer – Gillabrand – Griffo- Coumo- Brindisi-and of course let us not omit – AOC!!!
    protecting illegals, and who do you think pays for them? They own EVERY little bodega sell untaxed smokes and the state knows it does nothing, but give them more!
    something wrong about my comment?

    • tt

      Go suck some maga…..fool

      • BA5578

        AOC has really come through for the people she represents. Like the people of Queens. With Amazon.

    • cjg

      Is that you vlad? honestly, whats wrong about your comment? You are in the comments section, on an article about (Democratic) Illinois legalizing marijuana. Your comment though, is about evil democrats, and “the illegals” running bodegas…. that is whats wrong with your comment. Its pretty clear you are unhappy, but your life doesn’t suck because of democrats, or migrants running newspaper and fruit stands. Better question is, whats wrong with your character, that you have to post this kind of nonsense?

    • John N

      A vote for a Republican is a vote against morality and integrity.

    • Another whining hater go drink a beer and beat your wife

  • Rick Reeves

    I am hoping this will eliminate some murders on street dealers. Every life saved is the right step.

  • David Coplan

    What we need is a push to get national legalization. But I’m glad I live in Washington State the Green State.

  • Pauley Wallnutz

    New York State and Cuomo suck!

  • bullish_11

    THOSE hoping for Federal Legalization I hate to burst your bubble but that will probably Never happen.

    Think about this for a moment. If they change Federal law, Make MJ legal, you don’t need state laws to allow you to Grow, buy, smoke your own stuff. The States are then taken out of a LOT of the equation for them to Tax and Make money off of MJ, so no, NONE of the State Governors or Politicians want that, even if they tell you straight to your face they do, they just lied to you…

    If the current bill to help with Banking goes through, they will probably continue with the bill to provide protections to State Laws that Protect all states that Legalize MJ and thus stop the FDA, etc… from attacking states with legal weed. Now the State controls all the Taxes on your weed and the Federal Gov gets a huge chunk, Everyone but You will be happy, sort of, you now get to smoke legally…

    If Federal law Declassifies MJ I would legally then be allowed to grow my own stuff and ‘share’ it with friends if I wish, its just a Plant then, and states will loose tons of Taxes…

  • Pilgrim

    I would love to see Texas become the 12th!

  • John N

    I wonder what, if any, effect this will have on medical marijuana in IL

    • Donnamarie Freedman

      Because they will tax the hell out of recreational, medical cards will increase, they can’t tax it medically. Be careful what people wish for.

  • Etidorhpa

    This should stop the gang murders.