SPRINGFIELD - And we all knew this was coming next ... an effort to legalize recreational cannabis in Illinois. One that completely ignores federal drug laws.
Wednesday, Illinois State Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago) and Illinois State Representative Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago) introduced bills in their chambers to legalize and tax recreational marijuana for adults in the state, opening the way for cannabis to be sold and taxed like alcohol.
Thus far, Illinois has gone along with the decriminalization program.
St. Rep. Lou Lang (D-Chicago) was the lead on legalizing medical marijuana in Illinois in 2013. The state now allows cannabis prescriptions for 36 conditions - from Alzheimer's to traumatic brain injury.
Last year, Rep. Cassidy was successful in passing legislation decriminalizing the possession of marijuana up to 10 grams. Groups like libertarian-leaning Illinois Policy Institute sided with Cassidy's bill. They wrote:
Moving to civil from criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana means the state won’t continue devoting resources to keeping a number of nonviolent offenders behind bars, and will go a long way toward Illinois’ achieving Gov. Bruce Rauner’s goal of reducing the state’s prison population by 25 percent come 2025.
And Republican senators Jason Barickman, Pam Althoff, Karen McConnaughay as well as state representative Ed Sullivan joined Democrats in sponsoring SB 2228: Sen. Heather A. Steans - Michael Noland - Jacqueline Y. Collins - Jason A. Barickman - Toi W. Hutchinson, Don Harmon, Pamela J. Althoff, Karen McConnaughay, Linda Holmes, Napoleon Harris, III, Emil Jones, III, Patricia Van Pelt, Donne E. Trotter and Iris Y. Martinez. House Sponsors Rep. Kelly M. Cassidy - Barbara Flynn Currie - Carol Ammons - Sonya M. Harper, Michael J. Zalewski, Ed Sullivan, Christian L. Mitchell, Jehan Gordon-Booth and Will Guzzardi)
The new legislation - Senate Bill 316 and House Bill 2353 - would legalize the possession of up to 28 grams of marijuana and allow facilities to sell marijuana products for adults over 21 and tax those sales "in a manner similar to alcohol."
SB 316 sailed through the Senate Executive Committee as a shell bill and was amended on the floor with the sponsorship handed over to Senator Steans Wednesday.
HB 2353 is adding co-sponsors and momentum with Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago) leading the way - Rep. Kelly M. Cassidy - Emanuel Chris Welch - Mary E. Flowers - Barbara Flynn Currie, Christian L. Mitchell and Robert Martwick - no Republicans have signed on ... yet.