ILLINOIS (IRN) — A bill to legalize cannabis for adult recreational use in Illinois is on to the governor despite there being bipartisan opposition.
Sponsors of the measure say allowing adults to legally buy from state licensed sellers and possess up to 30 grams of marijuana is not just about revenue for the state, it’s about reversing the impacts of the War on Drugs.
“I have said repeatedly, however, this is not about the money,” said state Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago. “It can’t be about the money. States that have passed legalization and have gone about it as if it’s a magic ATM machine have failed doubly. They have not cut into their illicit marketplace and they’ve gotten less revenue.”
Cassidy said the tax rates have been set at the lower end of what other states tax. With all the taxes for cannabis in House Bill 1438, from the state excise tax, cultivation privilege tax and even local tax on top of the state sales tax, the most THC potent form of the product will have a 41 percent tax.
The measure found support from state Rep. David Welter, R-Morris. He said the provisions for local control over sales and the ability for businesses to do random drug testing were good provisions.
“I’m a father of three from a rural district and I’m standing before you supporting this bill because I do not believe the current policy that we have out there right now is working,” Welter said. “Prohibition doesn’t work and we see that. Putting safeguards in place, taxing, regulating it I believe provides a better market and a safer market for our state.”
Many other Republicans, however, stood in opposition to the bill, citing various statistics of increased psychosis, traffic fatalities and youth access in states that have legalized it.
Supporters of the bill said correlation doesn’t mean causation, but opponents said it’s an area that should be investigated further.
House Democrats were also split on the measure.
State Rep. Anthony DeLuca, D-Chicago Heights, talked about the negative health effects of the drug. He brought out props to the House floor: An egg and a pan.
“This is your brain,” DeLuca said as he cracked an egg into a frying pan. “There it is folks. This is your brain on drugs. So today for my family, for my children, for your family, of your children, and especially for African American and Hispanic communities, vote no.”
State Rep. Bob Morgan, D-Deerfield, immediately stood in support of the measure and to “refute some of the what I call nonsense that we heard including wasting eggs that should have been used to make a souffle or something instead of making a ridiculous point that has been outdated for over 30 years.”
The House Black Caucus was split on the issue with some speaking in favor, others in oppositions.
State Rep. Marcus Evans, D-Chicago, said he at first didn’t trust the process, but now he does.
“This is so important to me,” Evans said. “I’ve seen what happens when an individual is restricted. I’ve seen the men cry when they lose their jobs because they didn’t want to put on there they had a felony conviction. I’ve seen the young folks who were rejected for financial aid because they have a background because they had possession of marijuana and I’ve seen the destruction that’s caused to a generation.”
He said he’s happy to join others in rolling back the War on Drugs.
State Rep. Mary Flowers, D-Chicago, opposed the bill.
“Our community is still being used for people to make a profit and to get rich and give nothing back to the community,” Flowers said.
The measure passed 66 to 47. It passed the Senate previously and will now be sent to Gov. J.B. Pritzker.
Pritzker called the bill a historic step for the state.
“The state of Illinois just made history, legalizing adult-use cannabis with the most equity-centric approach in the nation,” the governor said in a statement Friday afternoon. “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.”
The governor also praised the sponsors of the bill and others who worked to get the legislation passed.