The Illinois Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act was passed on May 31, 2019, and signed by Governor J.B. Pritzker on June 25, 2019. The act went into effect on January 1, 2020, officially making Illinois the eleventh state to legalize recreational marijuana. What makes legalization in this state so unique is that Illinois became the first state in the nation to legalize cannabis for recreational sale and use through a state legislature and not voter initiative as had been the case in previous states.
In 2013 medical marijuana was legalized under controlled circumstances creating a bright outlook for supporters and activists. Since then, Illinois' medical cannabis programs have matured exponentially and continue to expand becoming available as an opioid painkiller replacement.
Although medicinal programs found thriving success in the state of Illinois, recreational legalization was a long fought battle. State Senator Heather Steans introduced a legalization bill in 2018 that did not pass, but in 2018, J. B. Pritzker ran for Governor of Illinois on a platform to legalize cannabis and was elected in November 2018. Polls showed over 70% support in the state for legalization and regulation.
On January 1, 2020, the first day of legal recreational sales, it is reported that over 77,000 customers spent $3.2 million in legal sales at dispensaries across Illinois. These historic figures were record breaking as no other state had generated such significant first day recreational sales. Dispensaries saw long lines of customers across the state with customers coming from all across the Midwest.
"Throughout my career in public policy and in public office, I have fought to reform or eliminate wasteful and ineffective government programs. There is no government program or policy I can think of that has failed in such a unique way as marijuana prohibition."