SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (June 2, 2019) – On Friday, the Illinois legislature gave final approval to a bill legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes, despite federal prohibition on the same. The bill now goes to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s desk for a signature.

After a hotly contested end-of-session debate in Illinois – where one pro-prohibition legislator even cracked eggs into a frying pan to show your “brain on drugs” – the House of Representatives voted 66-47 to legalize recreational possession and commercial sales of marijuana starting on Jan. 1, 2020. The Senate had approved the measure earlier in the week by a vote of 38-17.

Pritzker has publicly stated he plans to sign the bill into law. Doing so would make Illinois the 11th state to legalize cannabis and the first state in which a legislature approved commercial sales. Vermont was the first state to legalize possession through the legislature, but not yet commercial sales. Approval in every other state has been through referendum.

Additionally, under the legislation the governor would pardon past convictions for possession of up to 30 grams, with the attorney general going to court to expunge or delete public records of a conviction or arrest. For possession of 30 to 500 grams, an individual or a state’s attorney may petition the court to vacate and expunge the conviction, but prosecutors may object, with a judge to make the final decision.

Despite these efforts, the federal government still claims the power to deem marijuana illegal in Illinois, and everywhere else in the U.S.


Illinois legislators first passed a law legalizing medical marijuana in 2013. Legalization of recreational marijuana through HB1438 would remove another layer of laws prohibiting the possession and use of marijuana, but federal prohibition will remain on the books.

However, FBI statistics show that law enforcement makes approximately 99 of 100 marijuana arrests under state, not federal law. By ending most of the state’s prohibition, Illinois would sweep away a vast majority of the basis for 99 percent of marijuana arrests.

Furthermore, figures indicate it would take 40 percent of the DEA’s yearly annual budget just to investigate and raid all of the dispensaries in Los Angeles – a single city in a single state. That doesn’t include the cost of prosecution either. The lesson? The feds lack the resources to enforce marijuana prohibition without state assistance.

With 33 states including allowing cannabis for medical or recreational use today, the feds find themselves in a position where they simply can’t enforce prohibition anymore.

The lesson here is pretty straightforward. When enough people say, “No!” to the federal government, and enough states pass laws backing those people up, there’s not much the feds can do to shove their so-called laws, regulations or mandates down our throats.


Gov. Pritzker will have 60 calendar days to sign the bill into law or return it with objections.

Michael Boldin

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