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Recreational Marijuana Becomes Legal in Illinois on Jan. 1. Here’s How Communities Across the State Are Dealing With the New Law.

After some confusion, Chicago officials said residents who smoke marijuana in their backyard or on their balcony will not be arrested or ticketed.

Marijuana plants grow under lights at a medical marijuana cultivation facility in Joliet, Illinois. (Erin Hooley/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

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This week in our state: weed and taxes! With less than one month left of 2019, and with recreational marijuana set to become legal on Jan. 1, officials in cities and towns across the state are wrestling with the issue and determining where they’ll stand.

Some of the biggest news on the issue this week occurred in Evanston, where the City Council voted Monday to use sales tax revenues from marijuana to fund a local reparations program, according to the Chicago Tribune. While logistics are up in the air, aldermen who approved the measure see it as a way to try to retain the city’s black population, which has fallen in recent years, while “investing in residents who were harmed by discriminatory housing and other past policies.”

Alderman Robin Rue Simmons said that, for generations, Evanston’s black population has been disproportionately affected by arrests for marijuana possession, the Daily Northwestern reported: “It is appropriate that sales tax revenue from recreational marijuana be invested in the community in which it unfairly policed and damaged,” she said.

Here are a few other places around the state where issues involving marijuana legalization are playing out:

The city of Loves Park, outside Rockford, voted 7-3 to ban the sale of recreational marijuana. “There’s a long list of where recreational cannabis has been a social problem,” said Alderman Mark Peterson. Some aldermen said the ban will hinder efforts to generate new revenue for the city; Loves Park doesn’t have a property tax. Residents will still be able to use marijuana in their home.

Although the Decatur City Council previously voted to ban marijuana dispensaries within the city limits, it voted 4-3 this week to adopt an ordinance that closely resembles the state law on marijuana use, meaning residents 21 and older can possess and consume up to about 1 ounce of marijuana, according to the Herald & Review. Decatur residents will not be able to smoke in “public places,” although it’s unclear what “public places” means.

Police Chief Jim Getz said his department was still working on training for officers. “My police officers aren’t going to be out arresting everybody for a single piece of pipe paraphernalia,” he said. “If that pipe is not possessed with an illegal amount of cannabis or another illegal drug, then we are not messing with it.”

In October, the Peoria City Council voted to approve the sale of recreational marijuana, the Peoria Journal Star reported. State law gives dibs on selling to recreational customers to medical marijuana dispensaries that are already licensed, so one Peoria company hopes to open two locations in the city and estimates that one of those sites could see up to 200 customers a day.

And in Chicago, the police had warned that people caught smoking marijuana on their property but outside — even on the balconies of high-rises — after it’s legal next year could face fines, though officers would be encouraged to first educate residents on the new law. But Mayor Lori Lightfoot and interim police Superintendent Charlie Beck said on Thursday that people smoking in their backyard or on balconies would not be arrested or ticketed because they pose no threat to public safety, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Finally, WBEZ weighed in on a question that many folks around the state likely have: Is everywhere going to start smelling like weed?

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Portrait of Logan Jaffe

Logan Jaffe

Logan Jaffe is the engagement reporter for ProPublica Illinois.

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