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Grow ‘em if you got ‘em? Pritzker OK with some homegrown pot—not basement farms

Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks at a news conference on Tuesday in Springfield. Screen image.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks at a news conference on Tuesday in Springfield. Screen image.

Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker remains one of the biggest proponents of legalizing recreational marijuana, which he said could bring in $170 million in tax revenue, to start, by next year.

And on Tuesday he took it a step further, saying he’s also in support of “home grow” — marijuana — to an extent. The discussion about how many marijuana plants would be allowed in a household remains part of ongoing negotiations about marijuana legalization in the state.

Asked during a Springfield news conference about his “philosophical” view of whether Illinois residents should have the right to grow cannabis in their homes, Pritzker voiced his support.

“I don’t think it’s a philosophical question about whether it should just be an open right for anybody to open their own farm in their basement,” Pritzker said to some chuckles from legislators behind him. “It’s really more of a question about … it’s really more…”

After a bit more of laughter, Pritzker took a position: “People should have home grow, but the question is how much?”

Marijuana plants at a home in Honolulu in 2016. (AP Photo/Marina Riker, File)

Marijuana plants at a home in Honolulu in 2016. (AP Photo/Marina Riker, File)

State Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago, and state Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago, have been working on legislation to legalize marijuana for years. They hope to try to pass a measure, which could include some extent of home grow, by the end of the spring session.

But despite Pritzker’s support and polls showing Illinois residents favor legalization, there are still 60 legislators who signed on as sponsors of a resolution that asked to slow down the process.

And there are still key issues to decipher, such as law enforcement questions, who is eligible for a license to sell and grow cannabis and whether people will be allowed to smoke or use cannabis outside of their homes, among other subjects.

Cassidy said the current number in the measure they plan to file would include five marijuana plants per household, no matter how many adults live in the home. Cassidy called that number pretty “conservative” compared to other states. She said Michigan allows 12 plants, at any stage of growth.

There are several groups opposed to allowing people to grow marijuana within their households, including the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police.

But Cassidy said home grow is simply part of a larger discussion within a legalization measure. And despite some opposition to home grow, Cassidy said she hasn’t heard from any legislators about pulling support for legalization should home grow be included.

Steans said the discussion over home grow remains “open.”

“The number has generally stayed at five plants. That may end up changing,” Steans said. “There’s still discussion about whether that should be medical or [for] everybody.”