Bills to legalize marijuana introduced in General Assembly

(CHICAGO) Separate pieces of legislation aimed at legalizing recreational marijuana use in Illinois were submitted to the state general assembly Wednesday.

State Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago, filed an amendment to House Bill 2353 that would make it legal for person older than 21 to buy and consume cannabis, which, under the legislation, would be regulated and taxed like alcohol, the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting.

The amendment was submitted “in the interest of allowing law enforcement to focus on violent and property crimes, generating revenue for education and other public purposes, and individual freedom.”

In the other chamber, state Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago, submitted a bill to legalize possession of up to 28 grams of marijuana.

“In a regulated system, the money would go into the cash registers of licensed, taxpaying businesses,” Steans wrote on her website. “It would generate hundreds of millions of dollars per year in new revenue for our state. Prohibition is a financial hole in the ground, and we should stop throwing taxpayer dollars into it.”

Asked if Gov. Bruce Rauner would consider signing either piece of legislation, spokeswoman Catherine Kelly said the two bills were under review.

It was not clear Wednesday night when either piece of legislation would be put to a vote.

In 2016, Rauner signed a bill into law that decriminalized possession of up to 10 ounces of marijuana.

Both Steans and Cassidy have previously sponsored legislation to relax marijuana laws in Illinois.

Cassidy was the chief sponsor of a 2015 house bill that would have made possession of up to 15 grams of pot — about half an ounce — a ticketable offense. Steans sponsored the Senate version.

After months of negotiation, that bill passed the General Assembly. But Rauner issued an amendatory veto, saying possession of more than 10 grams should remain a criminal act. Legislators eventually agreed to the compromise, writing the 10-gram threshold into the bill Rauner signed in 2016.

— Chicago Sun-Times