Late last week, the Illinois state House of Representatives sent House Bill 1438, legalizing recreational adult-use cannabis, to Gov. J.B. Pritzker's desk, where it is expected to be signed any moment now. Not only does it make Illinois the latest state to legalize recreational cannabis use, it makes Illinois the first state to do so by its own legislature. Until now, states have legalized marijuana by a ballot initiative.
So far, Washington, Oregon, California, Colorado, Nevada, Michigan, Vermont, Massachusetts, Maine, and Alaska, along with Washington D.C., have legalized recreational adult-use cannabis in some form. Illinois HB1438 goes further than any other state has in the past with their initial legislation by including a provision that will, as reported by ABC News, allow Illinois residents convicted of a cannabis-related crime to petition to have their records expunged if they weren't convicted of a violent crime. ABC News estimates approximately 770,000 residents could be eligible to have their records completely cleared of these offenses.
Gov. Pritzker, who promised cannabis legalization as part of his campaign platform, wrote on his Facebook page: "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."
What This Could Mean Nationally
With Illinois passing the most progressive cannabis legalization bill so far in the United States, we could see more states follow suit. Vermont came close last year, legalizing the recreational use of cannabis but unable to come to an agreement on cannabis sales within the state. Both New York and New Jersey were once considered sure to approve recreational cannabis use this year. However, both states gave up, claiming it was just too hard to get votes for a measure to pass. Illinois proved it is not only possible, it can also come with a sweeping social justice reform by expunging criminal records.
Illinois also stands poised to collect major revenue from cannabis taxes. Recreational cannabis customers will pay a 10% tax on products containing 35% THC or less and 25% on products with higher THC dosages. According to Forbes:
"A report from Crain’s Chicago Business indicates that the Land of Lincoln will have one of the most lucrative cannabis markets in the United States. It is a cash cow that is expected to grow in upwards of 20 times larger than its medicinal sector, creating tens of thousands of new jobs and generating revenue to the tune of $1.6 billion annually."
In comparison, Colorado's recreational cannabis market brought in $1.2 billion in sales in 2018 which resulted in approximately $270 million in taxes for the state according to MarketWatch.
Not only did Illinois prove to the rest of the U.S. that cannabis legalization is possible; they showed the nation how to do it fairly and equitably. Will Illinois's progressive legislation prod our federal government to act on the many cannabis bills being considered at this moment? Let us know what you think in the comments.