Illinois Senate advances marijuana legalization

BERLIN, GERMANY - AUGUST 13: An activists smokes a marijuana joint prior to marching in the annual Hemp Parade (Hanfparade) on August 13, 2016 in Berlin, Germany. German proponents of cannabis legalization are hoping that the legalization in…

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - The Illinois Senate has approved legalized recreational marijuana use.

Restrictions on home cultivation and a tightened process for clearing past pot convictions helped move the plan to passage. The Democratic-led chamber approved it 38-17 Wednesday night.

The measure would allow residents 21 and older to buy marijuana from licensed dispensaries. Possession of up to once ounce (30 grams) would be allowed for residents. Non-residents could possess 15 grams.

Chicago Democratic Sen. Heather Steans originally proposed allowing anyone to keep five plants in their homes. Steans' final version allows only the 65,000 Illinois patients qualified for the medical-cannabis law to grow their own.

Those convicted in the past of possession of 30 grams or less could have their records expunged. Steans tightened provisions for clearing convictions of 30 to 500 grams which Republicans requested.

The Democratic-controlled House must approve the plan before Friday's scheduled adjournment . Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker campaigned on legalizing recreational use.

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The bill is HB1438.

Online: https://bit.ly/2EKtzB0

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6:25 p.m.

A key Illinois senator says budget-makers are crafting a spending plan that doesn't rely on revenue from allowing marijuana cultivation and use, sports betting or other revenue sources that have yet to be legalized .

Chicago Democratic Sen. Heather Steans would not elaborate on how the state will pay its bills for the budget year that begins July 1.

But she made her comments when she was asked about changes to her marijuana legislation which could result in a huge drop in revenue in the first year. The marijuana legislation moved to the Senate floor Wednesday.

The General Assembly is scheduled to adjourn its spring session on Friday.

The $39 billion spending plan that Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker floated in February counted on $170 million from startup licensing for a new marijuana industry and $212 million in tax revenue from legalized sports betting, among other sources. Current first-year revenue from the marijuana program is now estimated at $57 million. The sports betting bill has yet to see action.

Pritzker spokeswoman Jordan Abudayyeh (a-boo-DAY'-uh) said only that Pritzker is encouraged by progress of negotiations.

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5:55 p.m.

A long-awaited plan to legalize recreational marijuana use in Illinois has received a Senate committee endorsement.

Adults 21 and older could legally buy marijuana from licensed dispensaries and could possess up to one ounce (30 grams) under the plan the Executive Committee approved 13-3 on Wednesday.

A floor vote could come as early as Thursday. Approval would send it to the House. The General Assembly is scheduled to adjourn Friday .

Chicago Democratic Sen. Heather Steans (STAYNZ') has garnered some Republican support in her quest for Illinois to join 10 other states in allowing recreational use. She appeased law enforcement by changing the legislation to limit homegrown pot to qualified medical-marijuana patients. And she tightened a provision that allows people with past convictions of possession of 30 grams to one pound (500 grams) to get those records expunged.

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The bill is HB1438.

Online: https://bit.ly/2EKtzB0

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4:50 a.m.

Illinois lawmakers are facing several outstanding issues while winding down their spring session.

The General Assembly is scheduled to adjourn Friday until the fall. Legislators must adopt a budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Other prominent issues include a multibillion-dollar state construction plan and proposals to legalize recreational use of marijuana and betting on sports. Lawmakers also expect to set income-tax rates to go along with a constitutional amendment question on changing the state's flat-rate tax structure to a graduated one based on income which goes to voters late next year.

A proposal to strengthen abortion protections won House approval and moves to the Senate.

The marijuana and sports betting plans have yet to be heard in either house. Spending bills are invariably left to the final hours.

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