Illinois marijuana laws
Illinois governor J.B. Pritzker signed a bill making it now legal to possess marijuana for recreational use, becoming the eleventh state to do so. (Gov. JB Pritzker/Twitter courtesy photo)

SPRINGFIELD (UPI) — Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a bill Tuesday morning legalizing recreational marijuana use, making the state the eleventh to decriminalize the drug.

Starting Jan. 1, adults 21 and over may obtain licenses to grow, sell, possess and consume marijuana. The bill also provides avenues for people with previous marijuana convictions to have their records expunged.

“With this legislation, our state once again is a leader, putting forward the most equity-centric cannabis legislation in the nation” Pritzker, a Democrat, said before signing the bill.

Pritzker had long-planned to legalize marijuana in Illinois, even campaigning on the issue when he ran for governor in 2018.

“There is an abundance of evidence that shows we can legalize marijuana in a safe way,” the governor’s campaign site said. “It would have real benefits for Illinois, including reducing opioid overdoses and bringing in much needed revenue from taxation.

“Most importantly, legalizing marijuana is a step forward in reforming our broken criminal justice system.”

Groups that advocate the legalization of marijuana were quick to praise the action.

“Governor Pritzker and legislators in Illinois have laid out a path forward for states like New York, New Jersey, and others to emulate in the national movement towards comprehensive marijuana law reform,” Justin Strekal, the political director for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said in a statement.

But others are concerned the legislation will lead to more drug addiction, and all the issues that brings.

“If we legalize marijuana, it’s going to be really hard for me to protect my kids, my grandkids, my wife from people who are high on marijuana driving their vehicles,” Bruce Kettelkamp, the sheriff of Christian County, Ill., told The State Journal-Register in May.

Marijuana is still a Federally banned substance.

Reporting by Jessie Higgins

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