Illinois Just Legalized Recreational Marijuana

The state is the 11th in the union to legalize recreational cannabis.

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On Tuesday, Illinois Governor J. B. Pritzker signed a bill to legalize the sale of recreational marijuana statewide, officially making the Prairie State the 11th in the union to do so—and the first to legalize the sale of recreational marijuana by way of the state legislature, which passed the bill on May 31. (In 2018, Vermont’s legislature passed a bill allowing possession, but not retail sales of recreational cannabis.)

While the use of medical marijuana is legal in more than 30 states, less than half of thoseAlaska, Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Colorado, Vermont, Massachusetts, Michigan, Maine, Washington D.C., and now, Illinois—have also legalized the drug’s recreational use. 

The law is notably progressive, allowing for the expungement of previous convictions for hundreds of thousands of people prosecuted under Illinois’ now-outdated laws, according to the state. The new law will also create a program to “help minority business owners enter the marijuana industry, including through grants and loans,” the Chicago Tribune reports. According to Gov. Pritzker, the legislation is the “most equity-centric system in this nation” which will “right historic wrongs and reinvest in the communities that have suffered the most because of the War on Drugs.”

“Illinois is the first state to legislatively replace cannabis prohibition with thoughtful, equitable regulation, but it will not be the last,” said Steve Hawkins, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, a cannabis policy reform organization, in a statement to Mother Jones. “Elected officials nationwide are heeding the call of an overwhelming majority of voters who want to stop punishing adults for using a substance safer than alcohol. And just as we today look back at alcohol prohibition as a misguided failure, future generations will look back and shake their heads in disbelief that cannabis prohibition lasted so long.”

The law is set to go into effect on January 1, 2020.

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You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

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