Could Illinois be the Next State to Legalize Recreational Cannabis?

As many States in the Country move toward the legalization of cannabis, it looks like Illinois could be the next State to legalize recreational cannabis use. Recently, Heather Steans, a Democratic member of the Illinois Senate representing the 7th district, stated that she hopes to file a detailed and comprehensive recreational cannabis Bill by the end of April or very early in May. This new Bill may replace Senate Bill 7, also referred to as the “shell bill”, that dealt with recreational cannabis use and passed out of committee earlier this month. Illinois lawmakers are currently on their two-week spring break, but if Steans’ recent comments are accurate, we could be learning a lot more about the future of commercial cannabis use in Illinois in the next few days.

In 2013, Illinois legalized the use of medical cannabis for specific medical conditions under a limited pilot program. Since then, changes to the State’s penal code have lowered many cannabis possession crimes to misdemeanors. That being said, recreational cannabis use and businesses are still illegal in the State. Many believe that the pending Steans Bill will also include provisions related to personal cultivation for recreational purposes, criminal justice reform, and testing requirements.

Steans stated goal is to not only create a tightly regulated recreational cannabis system, but also one that encourages diversity. Minority groups in Illinois cities like Chicago have undoubtedly been disproportionately impacted by the State’s cannabis laws and the Country’s “war on drugs”, so it would not be surprising if the Steans Bill proposes some sort of social equity program. Whether or not Steans’ proposal will have legs is yet to be seen. However, as with the State’s medical cannabis regulations, the Bill will likely face strong opposition from religious groups, drug treatment groups, and many Republican lawmakers.

Check back here or sign up for our newsletter for more updates on the state of affairs in Illinois in the coming weeks.

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