Illinois just legalized marijuana – Vox.com

Illinois just became the 11th state to legalize marijuana — and the first where the legislature legalized selling the drug.

Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who advocated for legalization in his 2018 campaign, signed a marijuana legalization bill on Tuesday. The legislature had sent the bill to him in May.

Illinois’s marijuana legalization law will allow recreational possession and sales starting on January 1, 2020, creating a new system of taxes and regulations. Adults 21 and older will be allowed to possess and buy cannabis, although tourists in Illinois will be allowed to buy less than state residents. Cities and counties may prohibit sales, but not possession, within their borders. Personal growing will only be fully legal for medical use. Previous low-level convictions and arrests for marijuana will be pardoned and expunged.

The law will go into effect on January 1, 2020.

The state previously allowed marijuana for medical purposes.

Marijuana remains illegal at the federal level, with federal law classifying cannabis as a Schedule 1 substance with no medical value and a high potential for misuse. But the federal government has generally taken a hands-off approach toward state laws loosening access to the drug.

Ten other states and Washington, DC, have legalized marijuana. But Vermont (which also legalized through its legislature) and DC have not yet allowed sales. Besides Vermont and now Illinois, states have legalized through ballot initiatives.

Several other states, including New York and New Jersey, have considered legalization in their legislatures this year, but the proposals have so far failed to pass despite support from the governors in those states.

Supporters of legalization argue that it eliminates the harms of marijuana prohibition: the hundreds of thousands of arrests around the US, the racial disparities behind those arrests, and the billions of dollars that flow from the black market for illicit marijuana to drug cartels that then use the money for violent operations around the world. All of this, legalization advocates say, will outweigh any of the potential downsides — such as increased cannabis use — that might come with legalization.

Opponents, meanwhile, claim that legalization will enable a huge marijuana industry that will market the drug irresponsibly. They point to America’s experiences with the alcohol and tobacco industries in particular, which have built their financial empires in large part on some of the heaviest consumers of their products. This could result in far more people using pot, even if it leads to negative health consequences.

At least in Illinois, supporters of legalization have won.

For more on marijuana legalization, read Vox’s explainer.