Late last week, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker joined key lawmakers and stakeholders from around the state to announce they had all come to terms on the basic framework to legalize the use and sale of marijuana to adults over the age of 21.
Illinois’ new cannabis coalition is now expecting things to move on to the next phase: legislative debate. They will also begin to query feedback from broader groups of lawmakers who weren’t involved in the initial plan and other stakeholders. The measure was introduced in the Illinois State Capitol building on Monday, May 6.
What Cannabis Legalization Could Look Like in Illinois
The plan will allow Illinois residents to possess up to 30 grams of cannabis flower, five grams of cannabis concentrate and 500 milligrams of THC contained in a cannabis-infused product. Those limits are cut in half for folks from out of state. Illinois households will be able to grow five plants.
“Years of work by stakeholders across Illinois means that today we are putting forward a framework for the General Assembly to move forward this session to legalize adult-use cannabis, and we welcome additional feedback and insight during this debate,” said Pritzker in a statement Friday announcing the plan for legal cannabis was moving forward.
“From the outset, I made clear that any plan for adult-use cannabis had to prioritize social justice and equity, and the approach we’re taking starts righting some historic wrongs and opening up access to this new market with a $20 million loan program that will help qualified applicants from impacted communities,” said Pritzker.
The bill was initially filed on January 9 by State Senator Heather Steans. A little over a month later, State Senator Toi Hutchinson signed on as the main co-sponsor. On the House side, Pritzker pointed to the early work done by Representative Kelly Cassidy. In recent weeks, they met often with the governor’s staff to finalize everything about the plan.
“This bill stems from an inclusive process that entailed community meetings, town halls and legislative working groups,” said Steans. “In spite of having a wide variety of views, most of us wanted the same basic things — social justice, safety for our kids and revenue for our state. I think we’ve done a good job of balancing these three goals.”
Cassidy noted prohibition hasn’t worked, and the final plan represented an important policy change that was long overdue.
“We wanted to create a safe, legal and comprehensive regulatory system that protects patient access and allows adults to use cannabis while keeping it out of the hands of children,” she said. “We wanted to address the years, the decades of unfairness in the ways that our drug laws have been enforced. This bill represents a giant leap in the right direction.”
Will Illinois’ Cannabis Law Succeed in Building Equity in the Cannabis Industry?
This final plan hits on the key priorities for Pritzker. That includes the most obvious: legalizing the use of cannabis for adults aged 21 and older. But from there, it’s very much about helping the communities hit the hardest the War on Drugs in Illinois. In recent years, thanks in part to decriminalization, arrests are down in Chicago over cannabis crimes, but there is still a massive racial disparity in who is actually getting sucked into the criminal justice system’s revolving doors.
While it’s only a crumb of what the communities hit the hardest by the War on Drugs deserve, the $20 million Pritzker mentioned would go toward promoting equity in ownership and participation in the cannabis industry is a good start.
However, equity programs have been tragically delayed in cities across California, due to a lack of money. However, the Illinois cannabis equity plan is fairly specific about where the money is coming from. The funds for the loan program will come from existing funds from the current medical cannabis program. Fees from licenses for existing dispensaries and cultivators that are approved in the first round of applications would also contribute to the pool of money the equity applicants will be able to receive grants from.
And on a final interesting note, Pritzker and his team even got the State Police in the mix for the announcement.
“The Illinois State Police will be a responsible partner in enforcing the law and ensuring any and all provisions of adult use legislation are strictly and efficiently complied with,” said the Illinois State Police Acting Director Brendan Kelly. “We are committed to ensuring the safety of the residents of Illinois.”
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