Gov. Pritzker announces plan to legalize marijuana statewide by January 2020

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By Andrea Michelson, The Daily Northwestern

Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced a proposed law Saturday that would legalize recreational marijuana in Illinois by the beginning of next year.

The proposed legislation would allow adults over the age of 21 to buy cannabis from licensed dispensaries and legalize possession of up to 30 grams of the plant for Illinois residents. The bill also has measures in place that would promote social equity, such as a low-interest loan program for prospective business owners and the expungement of some low-level drug convictions.

“This bill advances equity by providing resources and second chances to people and communities that have been harmed by policies such as the failed ‘war on drugs,’” Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton told the Associated Press.

Pritzker and other lawmakers who worked on the measure have estimated that it would expunge 800,000 misdemeanor and Class 4 felony marijuana convictions.

The low-interest loan program outlined in the measure would allocate $20 million to cover some costs of opening a cannabis business for “social equity applicants” — people who have lived in communities with high rates of poverty and marijuana-related arrests or those who have been arrested or convicted of expungeable offenses.

“This fund of roughly $20 million will help applicants who wouldn’t otherwise have a shot at opening these businesses,” Pritzker told the AP. “That means that new up and coming entrepreneurs could start businesses in Illinois and create good jobs.”

Additionally, 25 percent of state revenue from legal cannabis would go into a new Restoring Our Communities fund, to be distributed as grants to communities who “have suffered the most because of discriminatory drug policies.” Another 35 percent would go to a general state revenue fund and 20 percent would go to a fund designated to support local mental health and substance abuse services.

Other terms of the bill outline possession limits for alternative forms of cannabis — 5 grams of cannabis concentrate or 500 milligrams of THC contained in a cannabis-infused product or edible — as well a five plants per household limit for craft growers.

Pritzker announced the bill at the Black United Fund of Illinois alongside fellow Democratic lawmakers. They said the bill will be introduced to the majority-Democrat state legislature on May 6.

This article originally appeared in The Daily Northwestern.

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