Making historical legislative strides, the legalization of recreational marijuana for people 21 or older in Illinois has been ablaze throughout social media since Illinois lawmakers approved the bill at the end of May.
It has now gone to the desk of Governor J.B. Pritzker who is expected to follow through with his popular campaign promise. Illinois will now join the ranks as the 11th state to legalize recreational cannabis, but the first to do it through a legislative process.
A crucial part of the bill that helped win over several Republican votes was Pritzker’s potential decriminalization of hundreds of thousands of people convicted of lower-level marijuana offenses, according to The State Journal Register.
By now, most of this is old news.
While most are rejoicing, lingering concerns weigh on minds as the state prepares for the Jan. 1 implementation. State Sen. Jason Barickman is among the concerned.
“I was very concerned about how legalization could impact minors and how it could impact those who choose to use and put the public in harm’s way,” Barickman said. “My opinion today is that it’s easier to buy a joint than it is to buy a six-pack of beer. That’s because drug dealers don’t card, but University Liquors does.”
Despite his tribulations, he voted “yes” on the bill because he believes “adults are given the freedom to make decisions in their life.”
While many throughout the state will be impacted by this new bill, Normal Chief of Police Rick Bleichner is focused on how his department and the people of the Bloomington-Normal community will be affected.
Since police do not have experience in dealing with policing weed, especially on a college campus, he believes they will treat it how they treat alcohol. Yet, Bleichner is concerned that there is no “easy and presumptive way” to test for impairment of cannabis as compared to alcohol.
Bleichner explained that he believes more needed to be done in order to prepare authorities, especially when it comes to driving under the influence.
“There were funds in the bill to allocate a task force headed by state police to research that,” Bleichner said. “It’s a pretty big public safety risk … why couldn’t it have been put on hold to develop a task force to come back in a year and move forward at that point.”
Bleichner believes that some people may not fully understand the bill and that tax rates and what costs will be put on marijuana is an additional concern to consider.
“There’s a lot of people that most likely will choose the illegal route than the legal route of purchasing cannabis,” Bleichner added. “But time will tell.”
More than 100 dispensaries could be selling marijuana by the beginning of next year.
Starting Jan. 1, 2020, adults 21 or older can possess and purchase cannabis products in licensed stores. Possession would be limited to 30 grams of raw cannabis, cannabis-infused products containing no more than 500 mg of THC and five grams of cannabis product in concentrated form, according to the Marijuana Policy.
“This is a new chapter for residents who will no longer be treated like criminals for consuming cannabis and who can move beyond harmful criminal histories,” senior legislative counsel for the Marijuana Policy Project said. “It was a real honor working with so many Illinoisans to help end the state’s destructive war on cannabis consumers.”