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State Sen. Neil Anderson Crosses Party Lines To Vote For Legal Marijuana

The Illinois Senate passed a bill Wednesday that would legalize recreational marijuana in the state beginning Jan. 1, 2020, allowing residents 21 and older to possess 30 grams of cannabis and nonresidents 15 grams.

A pre-rolled joint purchased from a dispensary usually contains between one-half and one gram.

The 38-17 vote was decided largely along party lines, with Democrats mostly supporting the bill and Republicans opposing. However, three Republicans voted for the measure, including Sen. Neil Anderson of Andalusia, who represents the Illinois Quad Cities.

"As a father myself and someone that's never smoked cannabis, I will continue to tell my kids that they should not smoke tobacco, they should not smoke cannabis," Anderson said during Senate debate of the bill. "And that is my job as a responsible parent. But to those adults out there that want to use cannabis, as I've said before, freedom is freedom, and I should not be infringing on that freedom."

Two Democrats voted against legalization.

The bill creates a licensed cultivation and dispensary system and allows the governor to pardon people with past convictions for low-level possession.

It was scaled back from its original version, which would have allowed anyone to keep up to five cannabis plants at their home. In order to win over support, the "home grow" provision was amended to allow only medical-marijuana patients to keep five plants. Anderson said he would not have voted for the original version.

Most Republican senators such as Dale Righter of Matoon maintained their opposition, even with the changes.

"More people are going to use, and that’s going to create more hazards for the public, not less," said Righter. "Our kids are watching this. Maybe this is OK for us for now, and for a couple years we’ll get tax revenue. But its meaning 10 or 15 years down the road? And that’s my concern, and that’s why I oppose the bill."

The bill now heads to the Illinois House of Representatives. If passed, Democratic Governor J-B Pritzker says he will sign it into law.