Illinois Senate passes recreational marijuana bill, sends bill to House

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — The push to legalize recreational marijuana use took a big step forward in Illinois Wednesday after the Senate passed a recreational marijuana bill. The bill is now heading to the House.

HB 1438 passed the Senate with 38 voting in favor and 17 opposed. Two senators voted present and two voted no.

The bill would allow Illinois residents to possess any combination of the following:

  • 30 grams of cannabis flower
  • 5 grams of cannabis concentrate
  • 500 milligrams of THC contained in a cannabis-infused product.

“Our kids are watching this. Maybe this is OK for us now in a couple year we’ll get tax revenue but what does this mean 10 or 15 years down the road? Sen. Dale Righter (R-Matoon) said.

“The way we have enforced cannabis in the history has been atrocious,” Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago) said. “I think this is the biggest piece of social equity, social justice legislation that we’ve passed here in the state of Illinois.”

Earlier in the day, the Senate executive committee signed off changes to the bill. Senators decided to restrict home growing to only medical patients. Local towns and municipalities will be allowed to enact zoning ordinances pertaining to public consumption.

"I think that with these safeguards in place the people of Illinois look at this and want our government to give individuals freedom over their life decisions," Sen. Jason Barickman (R-Bloomington) said.

The Democratic controlled legislature insisted that legalization would help minority communities.The measure creates a $30 million social equity loan program and lawmakers directed Pritzker to pardon people with past low-level marijuana convictions.

The governor issued a statement after the bill passed the Senate that read the following:

“Illinois is poised to become the first state in the nation that put equity and criminal justice reform at the heart of its approach to legalizing cannabis, and I’m grateful that the Senate has taken this important step with a bipartisan vote. Senators Steans and Hutchinson have done tremendous work to reach this point, and I encourage the House to take decisive action to make Illinois a national leader in equity and criminal justice reform.”

Marijuana legalization was just one of the several hot button issues lawmakers in Springfield debated as the spring session winds down.

The legislature signed off on Pritzker’s plan to ask voters to change the state constitution authorizing a graduated income tax system, which was approved by party-line vote in both chambers. Voters will weigh in during the November 2020 election.

The House advanced a controversial bill expanding abortion rights. This measure repeals the Illinois Abortion Law of 1975 that sets spousal consent and criminal penalties for doctors who perform abortions. It also repeals Illinois’ partial birth abortion ban. The bill now moves to the Senate.

The House followed the Senate signing off on a bill that would expand voting opportunities for people jailed before trial. That is on its way to the governor's desk.

Lawmakers still plan to tackle expanding gambling. The governor is counting on raising $212 million from legalizing sports betting. But others want new casinos and seats at existing casinos.

Then there’s the capital plan. The governor wants to spend $41.5 billion on infrastructure and improvements to state schools. To pay for this, he is proposing massive new taxes on gasoline, liquor, video streaming, parking and more.

Republicans said the legislature is pounding Illinoisans with massive new taxes. But Democrats say the state is paying off debt and making crucial investments.

"Taxes. Taxes. And make taxes. Sums it up," said Republican Rep. David McSweeney. "And as far as the major issues are concerned we have left is the budget, that will rely on tax increases. That will try on spending. We have a capital bill, they’re talking about doubling the gas tax. We also have marijuana as a potential issues, those are the major issues we’re facing."

"We’re gonna be talking about the dollars that we’re putting into the Medicaid programs, we’re gonna be talking about the dollars to help rebuild our social service infrastructures in our community. We’re gonna be talking about increased money to the school funding formula so that our young people can be educated, we gonna be talking about paying down our backlog of bills, making our pension payments — all the things the other side wants us to do, we’re actually doing it," Democratic Rep. Will Davis said.

The Illinois House also took up gun control and passed a measure requiring people seeking a Firearm Owner ID card to submit fingerprints with their application and raising the cost of a card.

Debated was fiery and lasted three hours.

“We must do more to protect the people of this state from senseless gun violence by criminals,” Rep. Karina Villa (D-Batavia) said.

“This bill does nothing to protect our children,” Rep. Tom Weber (R-Lake Villa) said. “The only thing that will stop a bad guy is a good guy who that is armed to protect them.”

Over in the Senate, lawmakers OK’d a new building at McCormick Place paid for by an expanded restaurant and bar tax. It will replace a ride-share tax proposal.

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