Bennett: Expect bill on recreational pot 'fairly early on in the next session'

Bennett: Expect bill on recreational pot 'fairly early on in the next session'

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"I know Gov.-elect (J.B.) Pritzker has said that he hopes to legalize recreational marijuana 'right away,' and that it wouldn't require a vote (by the public), just legislation passed by lawmakers in the General Assembly. So my question is, how much longer do I have to wait to puff the ole magic dragon in the peace of my home? Come on, Tom; give me some good news."

It may not happen fast enough for you to consider this good news, but state Sen. Scott Bennett, D-Champaign, said he expects legislation to clear the General Assembly early this spring.

"To put an exact date on it is premature, but I think Pritzker said last week that he hopes it is one of the first things he wants to do. I don't hear anybody in the Legislature really criticizing it at this point," Bennett said. "Sure, we want to do it thoughtfully, but this is yet another revenue source that we can talk about. After passing medical marijuana here, you can see that there are ways we can regulate it and do it in a professional setting."

Bennett said that Illinois can learn from the experiences in larger states like California, although the biggest problem is still that the federal government considers marijuana a Schedule 1 narcotic. That means that, for example, marijuana businesses are reluctant to put their money in a bank for fear that it could be seized. Instead, they have large safes on their premises.

"Now that we have a governor saying 'I'll sign it if it gets to my desk,' I wouldn't be surprised if you see it fairly early on in the next session," which will start in January, Bennett said.

After that, though, it may take a year or so to implement.

It took California more than a year to finally allow recreational sales (Jan. 1, 2018) after voters passed Proposition 64, which cleared the way.

"You look at California or New Jersey and some of the states that are doing it now — I think we can borrow from them and avoid mistakes and speed up the implementation," Bennett said.