Last Friday, Illinois lawmakers approved recreational cannabis legislation. The Illinois bill is notable for its attempts to incorporate significant criminal justice reform, with a broad component expunging criminal possession records for possession of up to 30 grams and preference to vendors in high-poverty, high-conviction neighborhoods.
The bill now awaits signature by Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who has long supported such a measure and has pledged to sign the bill into law. “The state of Illinois just made history, legalizing adult-use cannabis with the most equity-centric approach in the nation,” Pritzker said. “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.”
The bill would allow Illinois residents over the age of 21 to buy cannabis from licensed dispensaries as soon as Jan. 1, 2020. Initially, only the 20 currently licensed medical marijuana cultivation facilities will be licensed to grow cannabis, but beginning next year, growers may apply for licenses to cultivate up to 5,000 square feet, with preference given to applicants from minority areas disproportionately affected by the war on drugs.
Illinois’ 55 medical marijuana dispensaries, as well as new retail stores, will be licensed to sell recreational cannabis beginning Jan. 1, and medical cannabis patients will each be allowed to grow up to five plants in their homes. Individual municipalities and counties could ban cannabis businesses within their boundaries, but could not ban individual possession.
The 610-page bill provides for cannabis to be taxed and regulated similarly to alcohol. In addition to standard state and local sales taxes, sales of cannabis with THC levels at or less than 35%, other than a cannabis-infused product, will be taxed at 10% and at 25% for THC concentrations of more than 35%. Sales of cannabis-infused products such as edibles will be taxed at 20%. Municipalities may also add special taxes of up to 3%, counties may add up to 3.75% in unincorporated areas, and Cook County may add up to 3% in municipalities.
Sales from recreational marijuana are expected to bring in over $500 million a year once the program is fully implemented.
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