Illinois Legislature Passes Historic Bill to Legalize and Regulate Cannabis

May 31, 2019 Kate Zawidzki

Illinois Legislature Passes Bill to Legalize and Regulate Cannabis; Historic Measure Now Heads to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s Desk 

Bill Includes Comprehensive Criminal Justice, Social Equity, and Expungement Provisions

Statements below from MPP Executive Director Steve Hawkins and MPP Senior Legislative Counsel Chris Lindsey

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — A bill that would legalize and regulate cannabis for adults in Illinois — The Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act (CRTA) — has received final approval from state legislators and is now headed to the desk of Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who is expected to sign it. With Gov. Pritzker's signature, Illinois will become the 11th state to legalize cannabis for adult use and the first state to legalize and regulate the sale of cannabis to adults via its legislative process.

MPP, the nation's leading cannabis policy reform organization, played a crucial role in drafting and advocating for passage of the CRTA. Previously, MPP led the advocacy campaigns behind Illinois' successful medical cannabis (2013) and decriminalization efforts (2016). MPP worked closely with bill sponsors, Sen. Heather Steans and Rep. Kelly Cassidy, to lay the groundwork needed to pass legalization. In addition to lobbying efforts, the campaign has included town halls throughout the state and a series of interim committee hearings.

Statement from Steve Hawkins, executive director for the Marijuana Policy Project:

"MPP is proud to have worked hand-in-hand with state lawmakers and Gov. Pritzker to develop this historic legislation. Illinois will become the first state in the nation to enact adult-use legalization and retail sales through the legislative process. The Illinois Legislature has set a standard of excellence with this bill that other states seeking to pass similar legislation should follow.

"Illinois has put in place a set of equity provisions that should serve as a national model for other state legislatures grappling with how to redress the harm caused to communities targeted in the drug war. The expungement remedy in the Illinois bill is truly historic. It will potentially clear the slate of over 750,000 cases, vastly exceeding any other state's remedy on expungement for cannabis convictions. Cannabis was at the heart of our nation's disastrous war on drugs. This is a measure that will improve people's lives on a level commensurate with the devastation wrought by prohibition.

"What this also shows, first with Michigan in 2018 and now with Illinois in 2019, is that the heartland states are clearly deciding that the time to end the prohibition on cannabis has come. No one would have predicted that they would be charting the course over states like New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, all of which have stalled in their attempts this year.

"Illinois is on the brink of replacing a shameful, destructive policy with the most far-reaching cannabis law ever enacted. This bill is historic and a resounding victory for the values of personal liberty, racial justice, common sense, and good governance. We urge other states to follow suit."

Statement from Chris Lindsey, senior legislative counsel for the Marijuana Policy Project:

"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. It was a real honor working with so many Illinoisans to help end the state's destructive war on cannabis consumers."

The CRTA would end cannabis prohibition in Illinois and replace it with a system to tax and regulate cannabis for adults 21 and older. Starting January 1, 2020, adults could possess cannabis 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.

In addition to legalizing cannabis for adult use, the CRTA would create robust measures to redress the harms caused to those communities targeted for cannabis arrests and convictions. The bill would: (1) clear the records of 770,000 cases, according to the Illinois State Policy Advisory Council, through unprecedented expungement provisions; (2) direct a significant amount of the tax revenue to communities hard hit by the drug war; and (3) include groundbreaking measures to ensure an inclusive, equitable industry. A summary of the bill is available at, and a more detailed look at the social and criminal justice reforms included in the legislation is available at

Two-thirds (66%) of Illinoisans support legalization, according to a poll published in March by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. Nationwide, Gallup reported 66% support for making cannabis legal for adults in October 2018.

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Illinois Senate Approves Bill to Legalize and Regulate Cannabis for Adult Use

May 30, 2019 Kate Zawidzki

Statement below from Steve Hawkins, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — A bill to legalize and regulate cannabis for adult use in Illinois passed in the state Senate Wednesday in a vote of 38-17. The bill, which removes several cannabis possession offenses from criminal histories, now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.  

“MPP is proud to have worked hand-in-hand with state lawmakers and Gov. Pritzker to develop this historic legislation,” said Steve Hawkins, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, which is leading advocacy efforts in support of the legislation. “This bill helps people remove the stigma and harm caused by prior cannabis possession convictions and creates opportunities for those who want to enter the new, regulated program.”

HB 1438, sponsored by Sen. Heather Steans and Rep. Kelly Cassidy, would legalize the possession and purchase of up to 30 grams of cannabis for adults and establish an inclusive, regulated market for cultivators, processors, transporters, retail stores, and testing labs. If enacted, adults could begin purchasing cannabis as early as January 1, 2020. In addition to legalizing possession and sales for adults, the bill adds the option for medical patients to grow cannabis at home and creates cannabis-related training opportunities at local community colleges.

Laws regulating and taxing cannabis for adult use have been enacted in nine states — including Michigan — and the U.S. territory of the Northern Mariana Islands. Vermont and D.C. are the only two U.S. jurisdictions where cannabis possession and cultivation is legal, but where the laws do not include regulated retail sales. If HB 1438 is enacted, Illinois will become the first state to approve legal cannabis sales through the state legislature rather than via a ballot measure.  


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North Dakota Eliminates Jail Time for Possession of Small Amounts of Marijuana

May 09, 2019 Kate Zawidzki

Gov. Doug Burgum signed a compromise bill approved by the Republican-controlled Legislative Assembly that will reclassify penalties for marijuana possession offenses

BISMARCK, N.D. — Gov. Doug Burgum has signed a bill into law making North Dakota the 25th state in the nation to eliminate the threat of jail time for possession of small amounts of marijuana.

HB 1050 reclassifies possession of up to a half ounce of marijuana by adults 21 and older as an infraction punishable by no jail time and a maximum fine of $1,000. Previously, it was a misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail in addition to a fine. The bill also reclassifies penalties for possession offenses involving amounts greater than a half ounce, and it calls on the Legislative Assembly to “consider studying the implications of the potential adoption of an initiated measure allowing the use of recreational marijuana.” A more detailed summary of HB 1050 is available here.

“This legislation is far from ideal, but it is a substantial step in the right direction,” said Matthew Schweich, deputy director of the Marijuana Policy Project. “It is very encouraging to see a conservative state like North Dakota acknowledge and rectify the injustice of jailing people for possession of small amounts of marijuana. Lawmakers can no longer ignore public support for marijuana policy reform, which is growing quickly in every part of the country.”

Gov. Burgum also recently signed a series of bills designed to expand and improve access to medical marijuana for patients registered under North Dakota’s existing medical marijuana law, which voters approved in 2016.

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New Hampshire Senate Approves Bill to Allow Home Cultivation of Medical Cannabis

May 02, 2019 Kate Zawidzki

HB 364 will now head back to the House, where it passed in a voice vote last month; if the House concurs with the Senate version, it will be sent to the desk of Gov. Chris Sununu

CONCORD, N.H. — The New Hampshire Senate approved a bill Thursday (14-10) to allow participants in the state's therapeutic cannabis program to cultivate their own cannabis. HB 364 will now head back to the House, where it passed in a voice vote on March 7. If the House concurs with the Senate version, it will be sent to the desk of Gov. Chris Sununu.

HB 364 would allow possession of three mature cannabis plants, three immature plants, and 12 seedlings for each patient. Thursday's vote marked the first time the Senate has ever supported legislation allowing home cultivation of medical cannabis. If the bill becomes law, New Hampshire will be the first state to add home cultivation to a medical cannabis program that initially limited patients' source of cannabis to dispensaries.

"This critically important bill will make medical cannabis more accessible to qualifying patients in New Hampshire," said Matt Simon, New England Political Director for the Marijuana Policy Project. "Medical cannabis is not covered by health insurance, and many patients are unable to afford the products that are available at dispensaries. For some, home cultivation is simply the best, most affordable option."

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Proposal to Tax Adult Cannabis Sales, Distribute Revenue to Underserved Communities Advances in Connecticut Legislature

May 01, 2019 Kate Zawidzki

SB 1138 is one of three bills moving forward in the Legislature that are intended to end marijuana prohibition in the state and replace it with a system in which cannabis is regulated and taxed for use by adults 21 and older

HARTFORD, Conn. — The Connecticut Joint Committee on Finance, Revenue and Bonding approved a bill Wednesday that would tax adult cannabis sales and distribute the revenue to underserved communities. It now advances to the full Senate for consideration.

SB 1138 would establish a state gross receipts tax of 6.35% on retail cannabis sales for adult use; a state tax on transfers from growers of ($35 per ounce for cannabis flower and $13.50 per ounce for trim); and a 3% local sales tax on retail sales. All of the state tax revenue would be distributed to the Community Development Corporation Trust Fund, which funds early literacy education and community development corporations that focus on improving the lives of people living in economically distressed and underserved communities. Local tax funds would go to the localities where the retail sales occurred. A detailed summary of SB 1138 is available at

"We applaud the committee for advancing this legislation, which is both forward-thinking and mindful of the past," said Kebra Smith-Bolden, co-director of the Connecticut Coalition to Regulate Marijuana, who testified in favor of the bill. "It very thoughtfully proposes the state direct the revenue from legal cannabis sales to the communities that have long borne the brunt of marijuana prohibition. This boost in much-needed resources to underserved communities promises a safer and healthier future for all Connecticut residents."

A separate bill to legalize possession of cannabis for adults 21 and older and expunge records for past marijuana possession convictions, SB 1085, was approved by the Judiciary Committee on April 8. A third bill, HB 7371, which would regulate the production and sale of cannabis for adult use, was approved by the General Law Committee on March 25. Links to summaries of the bills are available at

"The war on marijuana is growing increasingly unpopular, and there is a growing sentiment in Connecticut and around the country that legalization is inevitable," said CCRM Co-director Adam Wood. "The three bills passed to date propose a comprehensive and well-planned exit strategy for the state. They would establish a well-regulated, thoughtfully taxed cannabis market that takes production and sales out of the shadows and brings them above board."

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AG William Barr Says He Would Prefer Federal Marijuana Policy Reform Over Current System of Conflicting State and Federal Laws

Apr 10, 2019 Kate Zawidzki

Statement below from Steve Hawkins, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project

WASHINGTON — At a Senate Appropriations hearing Wednesday, Attorney General William Barr said he would prefer a proposed federal marijuana policy reform bill over the current system of conflicting state and federal laws.

The comments came after Barr was asked about the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act, which was introduced in the House and Senate last week by a bipartisan group of lawmakers. It would amend the federal Controlled Substances Act to exempt marijuana-related activities conducted in compliance with state, territory, or tribal laws.

Barr said he “would much rather that approach—the approach taken by the STATES Act—than where we currently are.” He said he has not reviewed the bill and that it is currently being circulated internally in the Justice Department.

“The situation that I think is intolerable and which I’m opposed to is the current situation we’re in, and I would prefer one of two approaches rather than where we are,” Barr said. “Personally, I would still favor one uniform federal rule against marijuana, but if there is not sufficient consensus to obtain that, then I think the way to go is to permit a more federal approach so states can make their own decisions within the framework of the federal law and so we’re not just ignoring the enforcement of federal law.”

See the Marijuana Moment’s report for more details.

Statement from Steve Hawkins, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project:

“We are pleased to hear the attorney general would prefer the approach taken by the STATES Act rather than maintaining the current status quo. There is growing consensus that Congress needs to take action to ease the current tension between federal and state marijuana laws. As an organization, we have been working for years to change state marijuana laws, and we believe it is critical that the federal government respect those reforms.

“A strong and steadily growing majority of Americans support legalizing marijuana, and an even stronger majority believe the federal government should respect state legalization laws. This is an idea whose time has come, which is evidenced by it being echoed by officials at the highest levels of government.”

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Bill to End Marijuana Prohibition in New Hampshire Approved by House of Representatives, Headed to Senate

Apr 04, 2019 Kate Zawidzki

Statement below from MPP New England Political Director Matt Simon

CONCORD, N.H. — A bill to end marijuana prohibition and regulate cannabis for adult use in New Hampshire was approved Thursday by the state House of Representatives (200-163). It will now head to the Senate, where it will be scheduled for a public hearing.

HB 481 initially passed in the House on February 27, and it received a favorable recommendation from the House Ways and Means Committee last week. Similar bills received initial House approval last year and in 2014, but they were killed after they received negative recommendations from the Ways and Means Committee.

As amended, HB 481 would tax cannabis cultivators at 5% and retailers at 9%. A summary of the bill is available at

More than two-thirds of Granite Staters (68%) support legalization, according to a poll published last month by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center. Only 27% are opposed. The poll also found four out of five (80%) Granite Staters would approve of cannabis being sold in licensed retail stores and taxed at levels similar to alcohol or tobacco, if it is made legal.

Statement from Matt Simon, New England Political Director for the Marijuana Policy Project:

"We applaud the House for advancing this historic legislation with such strong support. HB 481 would replace New Hampshire's failed prohibition policy with a more sensible system in which cannabis sales are regulated and taxed. It’s time for the Senate to recognize that regulating cannabis is in our state's best interest, not just economically, but also in terms of public health and safety. New Hampshire has become an island of marijuana prohibition in the region, and Granite Staters are ready to see that change. It is time to join our neighboring states in adopting a new approach."

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Bicameral, Bipartisan Legislation to Protect State Marijuana Laws Introduced in Congress

Apr 04, 2019 Kate Zawidzki

Statement below from Marijuana Policy Project Executive Director Steve Hawkins, who is also available for interviews

WASHINGTON — Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), David Joyce (R-OH), and Maxine Waters (D-CA) introduced legislation in the Senate and House of Representatives Thursday that would end the federal government’s war on marijuana and protect states’ rights to enact their own marijuana policies.

The Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act would amend the Controlled Substances Act to exempt marijuana-related activities conducted in compliance with state, territory, or tribal laws. It would also protect banks that work with marijuana businesses and legalize the cultivation of industrial hemp.

The STATES Act was first introduced in June 2018, at which time President Trump said he “probably will end up supporting [it].” According to Gardner, the president previously “assured [him] that he will support a federalism-based legislative solution to fix this states’ rights issue once and for all.”

Ten states, D.C., and the Northern Mariana Islands have enacted laws making marijuana legal for adult use. Thirty-two states, D.C., and four U.S. territories have adopted comprehensive medical cannabis laws, and 17 additional states have enacted some form of medical cannabis law.

Five out of seven Americans (71%) — including majorities of Republicans, Democrats, independents, and all age groups — are opposed to the federal government enforcing prohibition laws in states where marijuana is legal for medical or adult use, according to a February 2017 Quinnipiac University poll.

Statement from Steve Hawkins, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project:

“This bipartisan legislation signals the eventual end of marijuana prohibition at the federal level. It reflects the position held by a strong majority of Americans that states should be able to develop their own cannabis policies without interference from the federal government. It also reflects the position President Trump took on marijuana policy throughout his campaign, and we are hopeful that he will have the opportunity to sign it into law.

“While we look forward to the day when Congress is ready to enact more comprehensive reform, we fully embrace the states’ rights approach proposed by this bill. Nearly every state in the nation has enacted reforms that roll back the failed policy of marijuana prohibition in one way or another. This legislation will ensure those laws are respected by and protected from the federal government."

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Cannabis Banking Bill Advances in Congress; Statement From the Marijuana Policy Project

Mar 28, 2019 Kate Zawidzki

The bipartisan SAFE Banking Act, which was approved Thursday by the House Financial Services Committee, would ensure financial institutions are not punished for providing banking services to state-regulated cannabis businesses 

WASHINGTON — By a vote of 45-15, the House Financial Services Committee approved a bipartisan bill Thursday aimed at ensuring state-legal cannabis businesses are able to access basic banking and financial services. It is the first time a bill related to cannabis banking has been approved by a congressional committee.

The Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act (HR 1595) was introduced earlier this month by Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) and a bipartisan group of 108 original cosponsors. It currently has 152 total cosponsors in the House.

The legislation would prevent federal regulators from punishing financial institutions for providing services to cannabis-related businesses operating in compliance with state laws. While some cannabis businesses have been able to find banking services, most banks are unwilling to work with them because they fear federal prosecution. As a result, many cannabis businesses are forced to operate entirely in cash.

Statement from Steve Hawkins, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project:

“This is a historic and critical step forward for the nation's burgeoning cannabis industry. Lawmakers seem to recognize the urgency and public safety implications of ensuring cannabis businesses can access banking services. Regardless of where members stand on legalization, they can agree that it is in the public interest to make banking available to cannabis businesses in states where it is legal. We hope the full House will follow the committee's recommendation and advance this important legislation.

"Many cannabis-related businesses are currently unable to get bank accounts and must operate entirely in cash, making them, their employees, and their customers potential targets for crime. Cannabis companies that are operating in full compliance with state and local laws should have the same ability to access banking services as any other legal business."

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House Ways and Means Committee Recommends Passage of Bill to End Marijuana Prohibition in New Hampshire

Mar 27, 2019 Kate Zawidzki

HB 481 will now receive a second vote by the full House, which initially approved the bill last month with a strong majority

Statement below from MPP New England Political Director Matt Simon

CONCORD, N.H. — In a 14-6 vote, the state House Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday recommended passage of a bill that would end marijuana prohibition and regulate cannabis for adult use in New Hampshire. HB 481 was referred to the committee for further consideration of the proposed regulatory system and tax structure after it was initially approved by the full House in a 209-147 vote on February 27. The House must approve it again before the April 4 crossover deadline for it to be considered in the Senate.

The Ways and Means Committee's recommendation to pass HB 481 is a noteworthy development, as similar legalization bills initially approved by the House were killed last year and in 2014 after they received negative recommendations from the committee.

Prior to passage, the bill was amended by the committee, changing the tax rate to 5 percent on sales from cultivators and 9 percent on sales from retail stores. A summary of HB 481 is available at

Statement from Matt Simon, New England Political Director for the Marijuana Policy Project:

"This is a major step forward and suggests support and momentum are growing in the legislature. In previous years, this committee's negative recommendations turned out to be death sentences for legalization bills that had initially received approval from the full House. This time around, it has given its blessing to a proposal that received record-high support. It’s time for the House to approve HB 481 and send it over to the Senate.

"There is a growing sentiment that prohibition is not working and that legalization is inevitable, both in New Hampshire and the surrounding region. With HB 481, lawmakers have developed a sensible path forward for the state. This was evidenced by the strong majority support we saw during the initial House vote, and it was confirmed by the committee's about-face compared to previous years."

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