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Illinois advances legalized pot after home growing settled

  SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Illinois lawmakers working to legalize recreational marijuana hit a snag that other states have wrestled with: whether to allow people to grow a few pot plants for personal use.

The 10 states that have legalized recreational marijuana have different “home grow” rules, with Michigan allowing individuals to grow as many as 12 plants and Washington state not allowing them to grow any.

The question in Illinois was settled Wednesday night when the Senate approved recreational use of marijuana after universal home cultivation of the plant was replaced by a provision allowing only medical-marijuana patients to grow their own.

The differences in home grow regulations reflect how states view the competing arguments about home cultivation: Opponents say it fuels the black market sale of the drug while proponents argue that if businesses can sell it, they should be able to grow it.

“We don’t say anywhere in this country that people aren’t allowed to have a small craft brew at their house if they want to, and I think the same rules should apply here,” said Kris Krane, president the Phoenix-based cannabis business 4Front Ventures.

Legalization legislation from two Chicago Democrats — state Sen. Heather Steans and state Rep. Kelly Cassidy — got off to a much better start this year than in the past because of the November election of Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who campaigned on legalizing recreational marijuana.

But pushback over policing homegrown pot forced Steans to jettison her original plan allowing cultivation for personal use before Wednesday’s Senate OK. Now, only the state’s 65,000 medical-marijuana patients would be allowed to grow at home. The measure needs House approval by Friday’s scheduled adjournment and Pritzker’s signature before Illinois would become the 11th state to allow recreational pot use.

Steve Stelter, who heads the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, said law enforcement would be hard-pressed to monitor compliance in people’s homes.

“We’re not going to walk up to a house and peek in the windows everywhere. How are we going to know?” asked Stelter, who heads the police force in the Chicago suburb of Westchester.

The home grow issue is often overshadowed by other aspects of legalization, such as who gets lucrative dispensary licenses and what should be done about people’s past pot-related convictions. But the issue resonates with users looking to save money and to take charge of what they put in their body.

In Vermont, Bernie Barriere is allowed to tend to two mature plants in a Bennington basement. He said he can grow higher quality and less expensive cannabis for his health and wellness than he can buy.

“You get to pick and choose your own ingredients,” Barriere said recently while watering the plants. “You get to be in control. You get to craft some amazing flower.”

There is little dispute that illicit markets have been an issue in states with legal pot, with much of the supply shipped to other states where it is still illegal to sell. People disagree, though, on the role of homegrown marijuana in illegal markets.
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