Illinois House Passes Recreational Marijuana Bill

Geoff Dankert
May 31, 2019 - 3:15 pm

SPRINGFIELD, Ill (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Members of the state House of Representatives voted today to give final approval to legislation making Illinois the latest state to allow recreational use of marijuana.

Lawmakers voted 66-to-46 in favor of the Senate-passed measure that would legalize possession of up to one ounce of marijuana, allow it to be taxed as a way to generate revenue for the cash-strapped state, and clear the way for people with past possession convictions to have those convictions expunged.

Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago) said the bill that passed the Legislature today has gone through numerous revisions to reflect concerns about people growing marijuana at home, as well as public safety concerns. She also stressed that the effort to legalize marijuana was not strictly designed to raise money.

"States that have passed legalization and have gone about it as if it's a magic ATM ... have failed doubly," she told her colleagues during the debate. "They have not cut into their illicit marketplace, and they've gotten less revenue."

Support and opposition for the bill crossed party lines, with Republicans including Rep. David Welter saying change is needed: "Prohibition doesn't work, and we see that. Putting safeguards in place, taxing, regulating it, I believe, provides a better market and a safer market for our state."

Opponents including Rep. Marty Moylan (D-Des Plaines) pointed to concerns about public safety, especially impaired driving, and the potential for large companies to exploit poor and minority communities.

"'Big Marijuana' will come into Illinois and target our kids, target our poor communities, and hook a whole new generation on this drug," he said. "With Big Marijuana, the rich get richer and everyday Illinoisans will be left to pay for it."

Governor J. B. Pritzker called for marijuana to be legalized during his successful campaign for the state's highest office. 

He's expected to sign the bill when it gets to his desk.