CHICAGO: Illinois would become the 11th US state to legalize the recreational use of marijuana for adults under a bill that won final passage in the state legislature on Friday (May 31).
The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives passed the measure in a 66-47 vote, following Senate approval on Wednesday. The bill will head to Democratic Governor JB Pritzker who supports the measure, which could eventually generate as much as US$500 million in new annual revenue for the financially troubled state.
Illinois would be the second state to legalize small amounts of marijuana for adult use solely through the legislative process, following Vermont, which did so in 2018. Since 2012, voters in nine states and Washington, DC approved legalization measures, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
"It is time to hit the reset button on the war on drugs," said Democratic State Representative Kelly Cassidy, the bill's House sponsor, adding that the measure, which would take effect Jan 1, would set the "gold standard" for a regulated market.
Opponents raised health, safety and financial concerns over legalizing marijuana.
"My goodness, there sure seems to be a lot of red flags on this issue," said Republican State Representative Mark Batinick.
The legislation would raise about US$57 million in new revenue in fiscal 2020, which begins on Jul 1, and as much as US$500 million annually when fully implemented, according to its sponsors.
The bill earmarks some of the proceeds after administrative and other expenses for drug prevention, public safety and programs in disadvantaged communities, while 35 per cent would flow into Illinois' general fund and 10 per cent would be used to pay overdue bills incurred by the state.
Pritzker included new revenue from legalized marijuana in his nearly US$39 billion proposed fiscal 2020 budget.
In addition to Vermont, states that have legalized recreational marijuana are Colorado, Washington, Oregon, California, Alaska, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada and Michigan.
The use of marijuana for medical purposes, which Illinois authorized starting in 2014, is legal in 23 states.