SPRINGFIELD — Recreational marijuana use and possession will be legal in Illinois beginning Jan. 1, 2020, after Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a legalization bill into law during a signing ceremony held June 25 at Sankofa Cultural Arts and Business Center, 5820 W. Chicago Ave. in Austin. 

Supporters of the bill called it the most equity-centric legalization proposal in the nation as the state became the first in the U.S. to pass a comprehensive legalization package through the legislature rather than a ballot initiative.

“This legislation lives true to the promise to bring justice, equity and opportunity throughout our state,” Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton said. “By including components focused on repairing the harm caused by the failed war on drugs and decades of policies that caused mass incarceration — Illinois is a national leader with policy that’s a national model.”

Beginning Jan. 1, the law will allow for the possession of up to 30 grams of marijuana per Illinois resident. Residents will also be able to possess up to 5 grams of cannabis concentrate, 500 milligrams of THC contained in a cannabis-infused product. Non-residents can possess half those amounts.

Registered medical marijuana patients will be allowed to grow up to five cannabis plants in their home and possess more than 30 grams of cannabis if it is grown and secured in their residence under certain conditions.

The equity measures direct 25 percent of legalization revenues to a newly-established Restore, Reinvest and Renew Grant Program to “address the impact of economic disinvestment, violence, and the historical overuse of the criminal justice system,” according to a press release.  

Legalization is expected to generate $57 million in the upcoming fiscal year and as much as $500 million a year when the industry is fully mature.

The new law also includes expungement measures for those with low-level marijuana arrests and convictions. Roughly 700,000 records are eligible for expungement under the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act.

Pritzker said those with arrests for less than 30 grams will have their records cleared through local law enforcement and the Illinois State Police, and those with convictions up to that amount will have their records referred to the Prisoner Review Board, which will make an expungement recommendation to the governor.

Those convicted of possessing more than 30 grams up to 500 grams could petition the courts for expungement through a more complex “motion to vacate” process.

Cannabis offenses connected to violent crime are ineligible for the automatic expungement processes, but the individual or State’s Attorney can still file motion with the court to vacate conviction.

“As the first state in the nation to fully legalize adult-use cannabis through the legislative process, Illinois exemplifies the best of democracy: a bipartisan and deep commitment to better the lives of all of our people,” Pritzker said. “Legalizing adult-use cannabis brings an important and overdue change to our state, and it’s the right thing to do.”

CONTACT: Jnowicki@capitolnewsillinois.com