Illinois Governor Pritzker Signs Most Equity-Centric Law in Nation to Legalize Adult-Use Cannabis

Illinois Creates $30 Million Loan Program, Social Equity Applicant Status for Licensing, Expunges Roughly 700,000 Records

Chicago, IL (STL.News) – Surrounded by a bipartisan group of lawmakers and criminal justice reform advocates, Governor JB Pritzker signed the most equity-centric law in the nation to legalize adult-use cannabis in Illinois, beginning Jan. 1, 2020.

House Bill 1438 promotes equity and invests in the communities that suffered through the war on drugs, serving as a model for the legalization and decriminalization of cannabis.

“As the first state in the nation to fully legalize adult-use cannabis through the legislative process, Illinois exemplifies the best of democracy: a bipartisan and deep commitment to better the lives of all of our people,” said Gov. JB Pritzker.  “Legalizing adult-use cannabis brings an important and overdue change to our state, and it’s the right thing to do.  This legislation will clear the cannabis-related records of nonviolent offenders through an efficient combination of automatic expungement, gubernatorial pardon and individual court action.  I’m so proud that our state is leading with equity and justice in its approach to cannabis legalization and its regulatory framework.  Because of the work of the people here today and so many more all across our state, Illinois is moving forward with empathy and hope.”

“This legislation lives true to the promise to bring justice, equity and opportunity throughout our state,” said Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton.  “By including components focused on repairing the harm caused by the failed war on drugs and decades of policies that caused mass incarceration — Illinois is national leader with policy that’s a national model.”

“I am proud to say that, by working with hundreds of stakeholders and spending years seeking community input, we have crafted the most just, well-regulated cannabis plan in the country,” said Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago).  “This law keeps our children safe by prioritizing public safety, includes extensive restorative justice measures and brings in much-needed revenue for our state.  I am thankful to all of my colleagues who stayed with me in this fight and to Gov. JB Pritzker for making it law.”

“This team effort sets a new standard for what cannabis reform can look like when undertaken with an openness to tough discussions, a commitment to strong outcomes and a willingness to do the hard work together,” said Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago).  “We set out to do this differently and we did, because we stuck to those principles. The result is historic and full of promise that I intend to ensure we deliver on.”

“This historic legislation will right the wrongs of the past and truly serve as a model for other state legislatures as they look for an equity-centric approach to legalize and regulate recreational cannabis,” said Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth (D-Peoria).  “The communities that have suffered through the war on drugs will now have an opportunity to enter a new market and be successful.  This is nothing short of a landmark moment for criminal justice reform in the state of Illinois that took years to reach.  I thank my colleagues in both chambers for making today a reality.”

“One of the things that we wanted to make sure we accomplished with legalization was ensuring we put social equity at the center and the heart of our efforts, acknowledging that while we normalize and legalize something that is happening across the country, that we tie the direct nexus to the communities that the prohibition has hurt the most,” said Sen. Toi Hutchinson (D-Chicago Heights).

“Legalizing cannabis and ushering in the expungement of 700,000 records will bring justice to the communities that have been hardest hit by its senseless prohibition,” said Rep. Celina Villanueva (D-Chicago).  “This monumental step forward shows what’s possible when public policy is centered around equity in every step of the way.  After years of hard work, I’m proud that Illinois will lead the nation in bringing justice and fairness to the cannabis marketplace.”

“Today is an affirmation of individual liberty. Adult use of cannabis should be a personal choice,” said Rep. David Welter (R-Morris).  “Beyond that, I am proud of our commitment that 20% of the revenue generated by legalization will go toward funding for mental health and substance abuse services in Illinois.  An additional 10% will go to pay down the state’s backlog of unpaid bills; which directly benefits hospitals, health care and social service providers in every community across the state.”

“My office is proud to have helped develop this historic legislation, which will provide conviction relief to hundreds of thousands of Illinois residents in the most extensive and equitable way possible,” said Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx.  “The time for justice is now, especially for communities of color who have long been disproportionately impacted by low-level cannabis convictions and the failed war on drugs.  We look forward to continuing our efforts to ensure the broadest relief possible under this revolutionary law.”

“This legislation recognizes that to move forward and create a new cannabis industry, we have to mend the historic inequalities that have torn communities apart,” said Esther Franco-Payne, executive director of Cabrini Green Legal Aid.  “Expunging the records of hundreds of thousands of people and making social equity at the center of this bill will change lives and revitalize communities.  Cabrini Green Legal Aid thanks Governor Pritzker for his leadership and members of the General Assembly who made this day possible.”