‘Bipartisan vote,’ Illinois Senate passes recreational marijuana bill, heads to house

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill.-  A bill to legalize and regulate recreational cannabis in Illinois passed the Senate Wednesday with a vote of 38-17, and is now headed to the House of Representatives for consideration.

The bill puts restrictions on growing plants in homes and tightens the process for clearing pot convictions. Those helped sway votes of some lawmakers on the border. The bills would allow people 21 and older to buy marijuana.

The 10 states that have legalized recreational marijuana have different “home grow” rules, with Michigan allowing individuals to grow as many as 12 plants and Washington state not allowing them to grow any.

The question in Illinois was settled Wednesday night when the Senate approved recreational use of marijuana after universal home cultivation of the plant was replaced by a provision allowing only medical-marijuana patients to grow their own.

The differences in home grow regulations reflect how states view the competing arguments about home cultivation: Opponents say it fuels the black market sale of the drug while proponents argue that if businesses can sell it, they should be able to grow it.

Legalization legislation from two Chicago Democrats — state Sen. Heather Steans and state Rep. Kelly Cassidy — got off to a much better start this year than in the past because of the November election of Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who campaigned on legalizing recreational marijuana.

But pushback over policing homegrown pot forced Steans to jettison her original plan allowing cultivation for personal use before Wednesday’s Senate OK. Now, only the state’s 65,000 medical-marijuana patients would be allowed to grow at home. The measure needs House approval by Friday’s scheduled adjournment and Pritzker’s signature before Illinois would become the 11th state to allow recreational pot use.

Gov. JB Pritzker released the following statement after the Illinois Senate passed legislation legalizing adult-use cannabis.

“Illinois is poised to become the first state in the nation that put equity and criminal justice reform at the heart of its approach to legalizing cannabis, and I’m grateful that the Senate has taken this important step with a bipartisan vote. Senators Steans and Hutchinson have done tremendous work to reach this point, and I encourage the House to take decisive action to make Illinois a national leader in equity and criminal justice reform.”

It now heads to the House.

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