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Illinois poised to enact historic recreational marijuana bill that could clear convictions for 770,000

Bill Hutchinson

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The governor of Illinois is poised to sign a bill legalizing the recreational use of marijuana there -- making it the first state to do so through its legislature and the 11th overall to legalize pot.

The bill -- which permits marijuana possession and may clear the way for hundreds of thousands of criminal cases to be purged -- was sent to Gov. J.B. Pritzker's desk Friday after the state House of Representatives approved it with a 66-47 vote, the first time a state legislature in the United States has taken such action.

Ten previous states approved recreational use of marijuana through ballot initiatives.

Pritzker, a Democrat billionaire businessman who was elected governor in November 2018, has said he plans to sign the bill, which he estimates will garner the state $170 million in the first year alone. But it remained unclear Monday when he will put his signature on the legislation.

“The state of Illinois just made history, legalizing adult-use cannabis with the most equity-centric approach in the nation,” Pritzker, who ran on a pledge to legalize cannabis, wrote on his Facebook page. “This will have a transformational impact on our state, creating opportunity in the communities that need it most and giving so many a second chance."

An equity-centric approach is designed to mitigate the effects that criminal laws have had on minorities and level the playing field for getting into the industry.