The state of Illinois has just become the 11th state in the U.S. to fully legalize cannabis.
Illinois’ new governor, J.B. Pritzker, delivered on a major campaign promise when he signed the recreational cannabis legalization bill into law on Tuesday. He had pushed for full cannabis legalization during his campaign and vowed to sign the bill when the legislature approved it in May.
According to Pritzker, they are creating a $30-million low-interest loan program to give deserving entrepreneurs the opportunity to get started in the legal cannabis market. This program will give priority to social equity applicants, or those businesses that are at least 51-percent owned by individuals who:
- have been arrested of convicted for cannabis-related offenses
- are at least 51-percent owned by individuals who have resided in areas that have been disproportionately affected by cannabis prohibition or in impacted communities.
Companies whose majority of employees meet any of these two criteria would also qualify for this loan.
What’s more, social equity applicants can enjoy application fee waivers. To avoid abuse of this provision, there would be a limit as to the number of businesses a person can own.
Pritzker had said earlier that this social equity program is their way of correcting past mistakes. This will also open up access to thew new pot market.
The government will also put up a quarter of the pot sales directly back to the communities that were negatively affected by discriminatory drug policies.
Experts project that the state’s cannabis market will generate as much as $2.5 billion a year.
Retail sales to kick off on Jan. 1, 2020
The state’s recreational cannabis program will be launched on Jan. 1, 2020. With this, licensed cannabis retail stores will also open their doors for business.
It is expected that as many as 55 dispensaries will be granted licenses to operate by the start of the new year. Other businesses will be granted licenses later. At maximum capacity, Illinois could have 500 stores, 150 craft farms, 30 big farms, hundreds of infusers, plus more, by the 2025.
Other provisions of the new law
Only adults who are 21 years old and above — with valid ID — will be allowed to legally purchase, use, transport, and store the drug. Minors and individuals under 21 who are caught in possession of pot face a $200 fine and a misdemeanor.
Illinois residents will be allowed to possess up to 30 grams of cannabis buds, 5 grams of cannabis concentrates, and 500 milligrams of THC in any cannabis-infused product. Adults who are just visiting the state will be permitted to possess half of these amounts.
When it comes to growing cannabis plants at home, only registered medical cannabis patients are permitted to do so. Non-patients who grow their own cannabis will face a fine of $200 for up to five plants.
What’s more, the state’s 67,000 qualified patients will have medical cannabis reserved for them. That means that they won’t face a lack of supply over recreational buyers.
Expungement of cannabis-related cases
Individuals who were arrested in the past year for under 30 grams of cannabis can petition the court to have their record expunged. You can also petition for expungement if you are in jail, on probation, or on parole for a minor cannabis crime.
In 2020, the state police will start annual automatic expungement of old minor cannabis crime records. It is estimated that 770,000 records could be expunged.
The state will release details about this soon.
Other points to remember
- Epileptic children who are medical cannabis patients can take their medications at public schools.
- Driving while high remains illegal.
- Non-licensed cannabis sales are still considered a felony.
- Companies can subject employees to drug tests and fire an employee who are reasonably suspected of being high while on the job.
- Supplying cannabis to someone under 21 years old face a fine of at least $500.
- Interstate traffickers can face $200,000 in fines and prison time, and still risk a Class X felony