Controversial version of cannabis legalization bill filed

Gov. Pritzker and Democrat sponsors of Senate Bill 7 unveiled their proposal to legalize cannabis for recreational use. The legislation would make it legal for adult residents 21 years of age and older to possess up to 30 grams of cannabis or 5 grams of concentrated cannabis. People would also be allowed to grow five plants in their homes if the plants are secured within their residences.

Non-residents would only be allowed to possess 15 grams of cannabis or 2.5 grams in concentrated form.

The plan also contains what supporters have referred to as a social justice component that is designed to reduce the negative impact that the national war on drugs has had on some communities and individuals. The first part would create an expungement process for people convicted of certain drug offenses. While this component had been discussed as a part of negotiations for quite some time, the actual bill that was filed takes the idea quite a bit further. The legislation would allow for the expungement of offenses that would remain illegal even if the bill passes. While individuals would be allowed to possess up to 30 grams of cannabis under the proposed rules, convictions for possession of up to 500 grams, a Class 4 felony, would be eligible for expungement. The Administration estimated it could lead to the expungement of up to 800,000 convictions. Critics noted that the bill would include expungements for things that would still be crimes even if the bill passes.

Another part of the social justice component would create a “Restoring our Communities” (ROC) program that would send funding to areas affected by the war on drugs. The legalization bill would also focus on helping people from affected areas and underserved communities to be able to get business licenses to profit off of the new industry that it would create, including a $20 million low-interest low program. Critics noted that the cost of the loans and the ROC grants could add up to hundreds of millions of dollars for new programs during tight budgetary times, and that a proper balance needs to be struck between new spending and paying old bills.

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