It’s been just over a year since Illinois legalized adult-use cannabis, and in that time, the state has sold millions of dollars’ worth of weed, pardoned and expunged tens of thousands of former weed offenses, and reinvested weed tax revenue in underserved communities.
As successful as the adult-use program has been, lawmakers are hoping to enact a new law that will further roll back the damages caused by nearly a century of prohibition. This week, the state House Judiciary – Criminal Committee narrowly voted to advance House Bill 3085, a bill to completely legalize the possession of cannabis, regardless of amount. Under the state's current adult-use law, adults are allowed to possess up to 30 grams of weed, but anyone caught with more than that can be penalized or even arrested.
In addition to removing all criminal penalties for pot possession, the bill would expunge the criminal records of anyone who has been busted for possession since 1970. On top of this, the proposal would also legalize home cannabis delivery services. Growing, processing, or selling cannabis without a state business license would remain illegal, and older criminal charges for these crimes would remain on the books.
The bill's sponsor, State Rep. Mary Flowers, said that she hopes this legislation will further address the disproportionate enforcement of cannabis prohibition laws against communities of color. Flowers argued that the people who are currently still serving time for selling weed are the very same people that demonstrated “there was a market” for legal cannabis, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. “They showed them how to disseminate it, how to cut it out, how to distribute it and how much money there was out there.”
The bill has now passed out of committee and will be heading to the House floor for a vote. A number of other lawmakers and law enforcement officials are already gearing up to discourage support for the proposal, though.
Illinois Sheriffs Association Director Jim Kaitschuk argued that if the bill were to become law “you could have a semi-truck-load full of cannabis and now that’s legal,” according to the Chicago Sun-Times. In addition to making it harder for cops to crack down on black market drug smugglers, the director said that this provision could also clear the criminal records of some former pot traffickers.
Kaitschuk also noted that the bill would also allow more former felons to legally buy firearms. Federal law prohibits anyone convicted of a drug offense from buying a weapon, but anyone whose former drug crimes were wiped from their criminal records would eventually become eligible for gun ownership.
The bill seems to have little Republican support, and even some Democrats have expressed reservations about passing it. Flowers has indicated that she would be open to amending the bill in order to help it succeed, however.