Illinois marijuana legalization

Illinois is about to become the eleventh state in the U.S. to legalize adult-use cannabis, and the first to do so through the legislature, rather than by a voter-approved ballot initiative.

After Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) signs the Illinois Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act into law, having pledged to legalize marijuana in his campaign, sales will become legal for adults 21 and older starting Jan. 1, 2020.

From this date, Illinois consumers will be able to purchase cannabis from medical marijuana dispensaries throughout the state. There will be a purchase limit of 30 grams of raw cannabis, and 5 grams of marijuana concentrates and cannabis-infused products containing less than 500 milligrams of THC. Non-residents of Illinois will also be able to buy marijuana, but only half the amount permitted to locals.

Licenses for up to 75 dispensaries will be issued from May 2020, and another 110 may be issued by Dec. 21, 2021. The new law limits licenses for dispensaries at 300, while there are currently nearly 60 operating medical marijuana dispensaries.

Municipalities and counties will reserve the right to opt-out of allowing adult-use marijuana sales, but individuals will still be able to legally possess and consume cannabis throughout Illinois.

Where to consume legally-purchased cannabis remains a problem, especially for visitors to the state. Public consumption of marijuana will continue to be prohibited, as is the case in all vehicles, while apartment buildings and condominiums will be legally entitled to forbid cannabis-use. Smoking cannabis will also be prohibited in any area that currently does not allow smoking under the Smoke-Free Illinois Act.

Marijuana consumption will only be permitted in private residences, away from persons under 21 years of age. It may be the case that some dispensaries will allow on-site consumption, but approval for this will be at the discretion of local cities and municipalities.

Medical marijuana patients in Illinois will be able to grow up to five plants at home, but home cultivation will remain illegal for everyone else. There are currently 20 licensed cultivators in Illinois who supply the state’s medical marijuana industry, and only they are legally permitted to grow marijuana.

Three Illinois state agencies will be responsible for regulating the marijuana industry: The Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, the Department of Public Health, and the Department of Agriculture, with a coordinator appointed to oversee them.

Existing cultivators and dispensaries have reacted to the change in the law by gearing up production and expanding their operations.

“We could see significant product shortages and price-gouging if stores run short on supply,” said Dan Linn, Executive Director of the Illinois chapter of NORML.

“Dispensaries are doubling and tripling their staffs and looking to expand to larger facilities to prepare for the tidal wave of opening day demand,” Linn said.

Cannabis sales will be taxed between 19 and 35 percent, depending on the product’s potency and where it was purchased.

“[T]he state is taxing different marijuana products differently: 10% for THC levels below 35%; 25% taxes for products with THC concentrations above 35%; and 20% for infused products like edibles. It will be a nightmare sorting them out,” Linn said.

Tax revenues from cannabis sales will go towards a variety of state initiatives. 35 percent will be apportioned to the state’s general revenue fund, 25 percent for programs aimed at benefiting communities disproportionately affected by the federal government’s war on drugs, 20 percent to mental health and substance abuse programs, 10 percent to clear unpaid state bills, 8 percent to substance abuse prevention programs and law enforcement, and 2 percent to safety campaigns and public education.

The new law also contains social equity provisions, such as allowing Gov. Pritzker to pardon individuals with possession convictions for less than 30 grams of cannabis.

The law also establishes a multi-million dollar Cannabis Business Development Fund to help individuals and communities most affected by cannabis convictions to start marijuana businesses.

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