Surprise! Illinois Becomes the 11th Cannabis Legalization State

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.

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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.