The Impact of Cannabis Legalization in the US: An Overview

As multiple states have eased restrictions around medical and recreational cannabis use in the U.S., an increasing proportion of the population reports using the drug. According to a 2019 study, about 18% of U.S. adults reported using marijuana in that year.[0] In addition, two more states recently legalized recreational cannabis, and this legislation includes provisions to give “social equity” applicants easier access to new dispensary licenses.

In Illinois, the recreational cannabis law was also designed to give “social equity” applicants – or those whose ownership consists of minorities, people with drug convictions or individuals hailing from disproportionately impacted areas – easier access to new dispensary licenses.[1] At the end of 2020, Gov. Pritzker announced that 492,129 cannabis-related convictions had been expunged and 9,219 low-level cannabis convictions had been pardoned.[2]

In Fiscal Year 2022, Illinois recorded a record-high $1.5 billion of recreational cannabis sales, generating about $445 million in tax revenue.[2] 25% of the taxes collected from recreational cannabis sales are to go to economically distressed communities or those impacted by the war on drugs, with the remaining 75% going to the state’s General Revenue Fund.[2]

To further regulate the industry, a cannabis working group was formed in the Illinois House Democrats, and two bills have been introduced to create a cannabis oversight commission.[1] Growers who leave cannabis in an area where it is reasonable to assume a person under 21 years old may gain access to it will face punishments under this bill.[3]

Adults 21 and over can now purchase up to three ounces of marijuana per transaction, and they may apply to the state for a cultivator license.[4] Cultivators of plants must be sure to keep them out of view of the public, or they may risk a fine of up to $250 and will be required to relinquish the plants.[4] If the same offense is committed three times, it can be elevated to a misdemeanor.[4]

0. “Cannabis users have higher complexity of co-existing conditions”, 27 Feb. 2023,

1. “House Dems' cannabis working group to engage industry | Local …”, 27 Feb. 2023,

2. “Illinois House Dems' cannabis working group will engage industry …”, 27 Feb. 2023,

3. “Homegrown cannabis bill introduced in Washington House | News …”, 27 Feb. 2023,

4. “Recreational cannabis sales to start Feb. 6 | News …”, 27 Feb. 2023,