The Next Legal Marijuana State? Illinois Considers Recreational Marijuana Bill

Two Illinois Representatives introduced bills that would legalize recreational marijuana.
Activist Ray Turmel holds a bag of medical marijuana while he smokes a marijuana cigarette, as he calls for the total legalization of marijuana, outside the building where the federal election Munk Debate on Canada’s Foreign Policy is being held in Toronto, Canada on September 28, 2015. In Chicago, two Representatives introduced bills that would legalize recreational marijuana. Mark Blinch/REUTERS

Adults in Illinois may soon be able to smoke their weed freely if the state approves a measure aimed at legalizing recreational cannabis. Two lawmakers introduced bills, Senate Bill 316 and House Bill 2353, which would allow adults to possess up to 28 grams of marijuana and regulate the sale, tax, cultivation and use of the plant in a manner similar to Illinois’ alcohol laws.

Under the bill, sponsored by Senator Heather Steans, D-Chicago, and Representative Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago, people ages 21 and older would be able to purchase marijuana products at regulated dispensaries. Customers would be subject to procedures like those that adults face when buying alcohol—having to show valid proof of age, for example.

Illinois already allows patients with certain conditions to use medical marijuana following a successful pilot program the state launched in 2013, and Steans managed to get legislation passed in 2016 that decriminalized possession of up to 10 grams of pot. 

While introducing the identical bills, Steans told the General Assembly Wednesday that legalizing recreational use of marijuana was the next step. The revenue generated from taxing the plant could benefit the state’s troubled economy.

“Legalizing and taxing marijuana will not and should not solve all of our budget woes, but it should be a part of the conversation about resolving Illinois’ worsening budget problems. Every bit of new revenue will help to close the governor’s $5 billion budget gap,” Steans said.

The U.S. marijuana industry as a whole has already become a billion dollar business, grossing more than $6 billion overall in 2016. The industry is expected to gross more than $21 billion in sales after five states, including California, passed recreational laws in November. California alone is expected to gross $7.6 billion by 2020.

Colorado, which legalized adult use of marijuana in 2012, grossed more than $140 million in marijuana sales in 2016.