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Bill introduced to legalize recreational marijuana in Illinois

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker made the legalization of marijuana for recreational use a key part of his 2018 gubernatorial campaign, and he has made good on this election promise by supporting a bill that would allow adults over the age of 21 in the state to grow up to five plants in their homes or purchase the drug from licensed dispensaries. The measure was submitted to the Illinois General Assembly on May 7. The governor says that he hopes to be able to sign the bill into law by January 2020.

Passage of the bill could be a financial aid to a state struggling to cope with large budget deficits. The legislation would allow the state to tax marijuana sales at rates ranging from 10 to 25% based on the THC level of the marijuana sold, and cities and counties would be able to add their own taxes of up to 3 and 0.5%, respectively. The state's general revenue fund would receive at least 35% of the money raised. Experts believe that legalization will generate about $170 million in revenue each year.

The bill also contains provisions to ensure that small growers and minorities are able to participate in a business that has become dominated by major corporations in many other states. Permit applications from groups in disadvantaged communities will be given extra points under the proposed law, and $20 million would be set aside to help these groups to pay permit fees of between $30,000 and $100,000 and additional fees ranging from $200,000 to $500,000. Fees will be charged based on first-year sales.

Experienced criminal defense attorneys who have seen first-hand the damage that drug charges can do to an individual's life prospects would likely support this legislation. Attorneys may also urge prosecutors in cases involving small amounts of marijuana to bear in mind that the offender's actions would not even be considered criminal in many states.

Source: Crain's Chicago Business, Pritzker aims to legalize weed, John Pletz, May 4, 2019

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