How Illinois became the first state legislature to legalize marijuana sales


Ten states have legalized recreational marijuana use, most through ballot initiatives. On Friday, Illinois took things one step further, becoming the first state legislature to pass a bill legalizing the sale and possession of it. (In 2018, Vermont lawmakers legalized possession only.)

The Illinois bill is notable for its attempts to wrap in significant criminal justice reform. Karen O’Keefe, with the Marijuana Policy Project, says it has a “very broad” component expunging people’s criminal records for doing what will soon be legal in Illinois. Additionally, would-be marijuana vendors in high-poverty, high-conviction neighborhoods will get preference in their applications. Proceeds from taxes and revenue will be reinvested in communities hit hard by marijuana convictions. (Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) is expected to sign the bill, making Illinois the 11th state where marijuana is legal for recreational use.)

The Fix spoke to state Sen. Toi Hutchinson (D), a leading pro-legalization voice in the legislature’s black caucus, about how she advocated for the bill against a significant backdrop of skepticism within the black community. Our conversation has been lightly edited for length and

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