Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker and key lawmakers have recently released details of a plan to legalize adult-use cannabis in the state.
Gov. Pritzker, who promised to legalize recreational pot during his campaign last year, is pushing the initiative with the support of legislative officials. In fact, they are looking into a Jan. 1, 2020 target date for kicking off recreational cannabis sales in the state.
What’s more, Gov. Pritzker has already included $170 million in projected cannabis-related revenue in his proposed fiscal year 2020 budget.
Despite assurances, details of the proposed legislation to legalize recreational cannabis were not released in the General Assembly until last week.
In January, Sen. Heather Steans filed a placeholder bill that would legalize adult-use cannabis in Illinois. She had worked behind the scenes with fellow lawmakers, including Rep. Kelly Cassidy, to come up with a legislative language detailing the legalization plan before the Senate is set to vote on the bill.
Provisions of the bill
According to the bill’s 11-page summary, Illinois residents will be permitted to possess up to 30 grams of cannabis buds, 500 milligrams of THC in any cannabis-infused products, and five grams of cannabis concentrates. Those who are just visiting the state will be allowed to possess half of these amounts during their stay.
The state government will allow residents to grow up to five cannabis plants.
Legalization of cannabis for recreational use is slated to take effect on Jan. 1, 2020, with medical cannabis dispensaries getting a headstart on applying for licenses. New retail stores will be licensed by May 1, 2020, while processors, transporters, and craft growers will be licensed by July 1, 2020.
A second wave of cannabis businesses will be granted permits in late 2021.
It is not clear when the legislation will be voted on by the House and Senate, but the session is set to adjourn on May 31, 2019. This means the bill will have to move fast.
What’s more, the legislation proposes to create a $20-million low-interest loan program that will help social equity applicants. These are businesses that are at least 51-percent owned and controlled by people who have been convicted of or arrested for cannabis offenses, or who have resided in impacted communities or areas that have been disproportionately affected by cannabis prohibition. Businesses whose majority of employees meet these criteria would also qualify for this loan.
In a tweet, Gov. Pritzker said that this loan program is their way of correcting historic wrongs and opening up access to the new market.
He added that they will be putting up a quarter of the revenues from cannabis sales directly back into the communities that have been negatively impacted by the criminal justice system’s discrimination in prosecuting drug laws.
Social equity applicants can also enjoy application fee waivers. But there would be limitations as to the number of businesses that a person can own.
Furthermore, the government would create a grant program named “Restoring Our Communities” to invest in communities that suffered the most due to discriminatory drug policies.
Past convictions for the possession, manufacture, cultivation, or delivery of cannabis would be eligible for expungement, too.
Cannabis containing up to 35 percent are going to be taxed at 10 percent of the retail price. Those with higher potency would get a 25 percent tax rate, while infused products would get 20 percent.
Cultivation businesses, on the other hand, would need to pay the state 7 percent of their gross receipts in taxes.
Cannabis revenue would go toward program costs, then fund the grant program, law enforcement grants, substance abuse services, and the general state fund.
Cities and municipalities can impose additional local taxes.
Who will oversee the state’s cannabis program
A Cannabis Regulation Oversight Officer will be appointed by the governor to oversee the program. Several state agencies and departments will also play regulatory and enforcement roles.
Municipalities that want to opt out of allowing cannabis sales would need to adopt the relevant ordinances within a year of the bill taking into effect. Afterward, local prohibitions could only be instituted through voter-approved referendums.