Sensi: States Tackle Social Justice Issues After Cannabis Decriminalization

Leland Rucker is the senior editor at Sensi Magazine and he joins us on Thursday mornings at 8.20am to talk about the latest news in cannabis.

 

Governor J.B. Pritzker of Illinois (D) signed a bill into effect on Tuesday that will make it  the 11th state to legalize recreational marijuana for adult use. It also means that nearly 800,000 people with criminal records for purchasing or possessing 30 grams of marijuana or less may have those records expunged,  gives cannabis-vendor preference to minority owners and promises 25% of tax revenue from marijuana sales to redevelop impoverished communities.

 

 

January 1 is the start date for sales to begin, which establishes that people who live in Illinois can possess up to 30 grams of cannabis. The limit is half that for visitors to the state. Adults 21 years old and up will be able to purchase at licensed dispensaries. Until January 1, marijuana possession remains illegal in the state.

Illinois is the first state to fully legalize recreational marijuana through the legislative, as opposed to a ballot measure utilized by pioneering states like Colorado and Washington.

Primary among lawmakers’ concerns was the social justice aspect of marijuana legalization. Even after the state and the city of Chicago decriminalized cannabis possession, Black residents continued to be targeted for arrest in higher numbers than Hispanics or whites—despite academic proof that rates of marijuana consumption are consistent across racial lines.

The bill prioritizes cannabis entrepreneurs in poor neighborhoods and areas that have seen disproportionately high arrest rates under cannabis prohibition. A low interest loan program will be established in these communities via revenue the state will gain from cannabis sales. 25 percent of tax revenue from cannabis will fund grant programs that affect these communities. 20 percent will go to fund substance abuse and mental health programs.

Governor Pritzker proposed the bill in May, hoping to fulfill his campaign promise to change the way the state deals with marijuana. The legislation moved like clockwork through the Democrat-controlled Senate and House.

The bill did hit a snag over the issue of growing cannabis at home. Though its original language called for a legal limit of five cannabis plants, police groups were successful in convincing law makers that this would provide a challenge for law enforcement. As a result, Illinois home grow opportunities will be limited to individuals with medical marijuana cards.

Contrast that with the fact that In NY last week, a bill to legalize sales was dropped when the Democratic-led state Senate did not have the votes. The legislature instead approved a bill to further decriminalize the drug. Possession of up to two ounces of cannabis will now be considered a violation and will be subject to a $200 fine, possession of one ounce or less would result in a $50 fine.

Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo, who says it was a ‘mistake” not to legalize marijuana, says lawmakers would have been better off including the measure in the state budget, where they had the political cover of the gigantic state spending plan, instead of waiting until later in the session to tackle the issue.

“I’m not going to say ‘I told you so,’” said Cuomo. “But, I’m going to say everything but.”