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Illinois Legislature Votes to Legalize Recreational Cannabis

On Friday, May 31, 2019, legislators in the State of Illinois voted to legalize the recreational use of cannabis.

Background

On May 31, the Democratic-controlled Illinois Legislature voted to legalize recreational cannabis use. The bill has not yet been signed by Governor JB Pritzker but since the Governor made legalization a key component of his election campaign, he is expected to sign bill into law shortly. With his signature Illinois will join ten states who have legalized recreational cannabis use. However, in the ten preceding states, the vast majority have sanctioned legalization via ballot measures—i.e.,via a direct vote of that state’s populace. Only Vermont, in 2018 did a previous legislature legalize some variation of legalize cannabis. The Vermont bill legalized the possession, by those over the age of 21, of up to an ounce of cannabis and to grow no more than two plants to maturity at any one time. The Vermont bill was also passed by a Democratic lead legislature. The Vermont passage did not create any protocol in which cannabis is sold via dispensaries. In the New England region of the nation, Vermont’s legalization joined the States of Maine and Massachusetts which both sanctioned recreational cannabis use in 2016.

The Illinois Legislation Sanctioning Recreational Cannabis

Governor JB Pritzker took office on January 14, 2019. His campaign to election included taking the state to the legalization of recreational cannabis. Obviously, with the Illinois Legislature’s passage, Governor Pritzker was more than pleased:

“The state of Illinois just made history, legalizing adult-use cannabis with the most equity-centric approach in the nation. This will have a transformational impact on our state, creating opportunity in the communities that need it most and giving so many a second chance. I applaud bipartisan members of the General Assembly for their vote on this legislation. . . .In the interest of equity and criminal justice reform, I look forward to signing this monumental legislation.”

Legalization Details

Once signed into law, the new bill would take effect January 1, 2020. The bill allows those 21 and over to purchase cannabis from a licensed dispensary. As to possession, Illinois residents may do so up to 30 grams. Perhaps more interestingly, non-residentscan purchase only up to 15 grams. (See, CBS News; https://www.cbsnews.com/news/illinois-to-legalize-recreational-marijuana-house-votes-to-approve-recreational-cannabis-today-2019-05-31/)

This would appear to address the perceived issue of residents in neighboring “dry” states coming to Illinois predominantly for cannabis purchase.

The “Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act” has as its preamble the following:

“(b) In the interest of the health and public safety of the residents of Illinois, the General Assembly fur finds and declares that cannabis should be regulated in a manner similar to alcohol. . . .”

The Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act addresses a wide category of topics including: proof of age; prohibition on sales or transferring to minors; driving under the influence; sales, testing and labelling, et, all subject to “additional regulation”; disclosures about health risks; workplace safety; licensing; taxation; and possible expungement of cannabis related convictions.

The bill defines cannabis as:

“. . .marijuana, hashish, and other substances that are identified as including any parts of the plan Cannabis sativa, or Cannabis indica, whether growing or not; the seeds thereof, the resin extracted from any part of the plant; and any compound manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparaton of the plant. . . .

Past Cannabis Related Convictions

The bill, under Article 7, is entitled: “Social Equity In The Cannabis Industry.” In summary it declares:

“(b) The General Assembly also finds and declares that individuals who have been arrested or incarcerated due to drug law suffer long-lasting negative consequences, including impacts to employment, business ownership, housing, health, and long-term financial well-being.”

The bill declares the need for a “social equity program. . .” Presumably, this program will establish regulations and guidelines paving the way for cannabis related convictions to be expunged.

Taxation

No discussion of state legalized cannabis would be complete with addressing the issue of taxation. While only part of the equation for consideration of legalization, it nevertheless plays an important part. States considering legalization have no doubt observed and consulted with “legal states” about tax revenues. Legalization represents an opportunity to collect tens of millions of tax dollars each year to most states. The bill also addresses taxation related to sales and cultivation sales.

Conclusion and Implications

Illinois now joins a rapidly-growing list of states that sanction recreation cannabis sales, possession and use. The bill is expansive on the many topics and issues related to legalized sales. The bill comes as the culmination of one of Governor Pritzker’s campaign promises. With his anticipated signing of the bill, Illinois will become the 11th state to legalize recreational cannabis with other states actively considering legalization. All of this occurring within a nation that criminalizes recreation use. For more information on the bill, see: http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/101/SB/10100SB0007sam001.htm

(Robert Schuster)