Illinois nears legalizing pot

SPRINGFIELD – Workplaces policies that prohibit drug use will be maintained in a negotiated version of a measure legalizing pot that passed the Illinois Senate Wednesday night.

While the measure languished in committee for most of the General Assembly session, a last minute version appears to be moving towards Illinois Governor JB Pritzker, who has been encouraging the effort for months. 

The latest version includes provisions allowing the governor to pardon those in prison for marijuana possession and setting up cannabis businesses to benefit minority owners.

“Illinois is poised to become the first state in the nation that put equity and criminal justice reform at the heart of its approach to legalizing cannabis, and I’m grateful that the Senate has taken this important step with a bipartisan vote,” Pritzker said in a press release Thursday.  “Senators Steans and Hutchinson have done tremendous work to reach this point, and I encourage the House to take decisive action to make Illinois a national leader in equity and criminal justice reform.”

Not only did three Democrat senators (Bertino-Tarrant, Crowe and Harris (a “present”)) depart with their party on the vote, so did four Republican senators (Jason Barickman, Neil Anderson, Steve McClure voted “yes,” and Sue Rezin voted “present.” 

Chicago Crain’s says the negotiated proposal allows businesses to maintain workplace policies that prohibit drug use gave Barickman the basis for supporting the law.  The Illinois Chamber’s shift also helped.

“Six months ago, we were very opposed,” Todd Maisch, CEO of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, said during the committee hearing in the Senate Wednesday. “Our board, after a lot of deliberation, we aren’t excited, but we’re not opposed. We believe— with the exception of one concern over random drug testing, which will get worked out . . . these are the strongest workplace protections in the nation.”

The Technology & Manufacturing Association in Illinois surveyed a sampling of their nearly 800 active members and reported the majority opposed legalizing marijuana. 

Of the 110 TMA members that responded to the survey regarding their opinion on the legalization of recreational marijuana, 50% of the Illinois manufacturers opposed, 13% were undecided, and 37% supported the legalization legislation.

The measure is expected to be heard in the Illinois House Thursday as the regular session ends May 31st.