On January 1, 2020, Cannabis Becomes Legal In Illinois

Last week, the Illinois Senate passed a bill to establish a recreational cannabis program, and Gov. Pritzker has announced he will sign it, having run on a platform supporting such action.

Illinois’ cannabis law goes in effect on January 1, 2020, making it the 11th state to offer a recreational program, and the first to do so through legislative action versus a voter initiative ballot measure.

The specifics of the program were well covered by the Chicago Sun-Times, and it’s always interesting to see how other states plan to regulate and tax cannabis, and where they land on the importance of social equity and record expungement.

Beginning January 1, 2020, residents 21 and over may buy weed from the state’s 55 already-established medical dispensaries, or from up to 75 new recreational stores which will be licensed by July 1.

(Licenses won’t be cheap: Illinois currently has 17 licensed medical producers, and those who wish to grow recreationally will need to spend $100,000 per license, plus up to an additional $500,000 for the Cannabis Business Development fund—yes, the “CBD.” Har har, thank you, next.)

Illinois residents may purchase and possess 30 grams of flower, five grams of concentrate, and up to 500 milligrams of THC-infused products such as edibles. Visitors to Illinois will only be allowed half of these product limits.

The tax system is also unique:

As Marijuana Moment points out, state sales tax is applied at 6.25 percent. Cities and counties could also pass and collect a tax for themselves of 3.5 percent.

After that, taxes are based on THC content—a cannabis product is taxed 10 percent for up to 35 percent THC. Products higher than that have a 25 percent tax applied.

Cannabis-infused products get hit with a 20 percent tax, meaning that vape cartridge or shatter could come with a tax of up to 35 percent.

Those taxes then get distributed, per the Sun-Times, as follows:

“35 percent of tax dollars will be added to the state’s general revenue fund; 25 percent will go toward areas that have been adversely affected by previous drug policies; 20 percent will be used to fund mental health and substance abuse programs; 10 percent will go into a fund dedicated to stabilizing the state budget; 8% will be allocated for law enforcement and the final 2 percent will be used for public education.”

It will also be the source for the establishment of a $30 million low-interest small cannabis business loan program (the CBD) and, as Marijuana Moment reports, open to “people who have lived in a location designated as a ‘disproportionately impacted area’ for a certain amount of time, or who has been convicted of an offense that would be eligible for expungement, can qualify as social equity applicants for cannabis business licenses. That status would entitle people for extra points on licensing applications and fee waivers.”

The taxes will also pay for expungements, albeit in a smaller way than originally proposed.

Initially, the legislation would have provided for a mind-boggling automatic 800,000 cannabis-conviction-related expungements. Opponents objected, and the compromise arrived at now allows those convicted of a cannabis offense involving up to 30 grams to have that expunged automatically and at no charge to the record holder.

For convictions of between 30 and 500 grams (a pound is 454 grams), an individual or a state’s attorney may petition the court for expungement.

Another provision changed after some outcry was home cultivation.

Originally backers wanted to allow home grows of up to five plants. But now only those who are medical cannabis program participants may grow those five plants.

However, the maximum penalty for getting caught growing up to five plants is a civil penalty of up to $200.

Citizens of Illinois, GROW YOUR OWN NOW. Think of it as a potential license fee, at the worst.

Josh Taylor is a well-known and successful entrepreneur in the legal cannabis space, producing B2B and B2C cannabis events, "Backstage Budtending" and upscale concierge services through his companies OregonCannabisConcierge.com and CaliforniaCannabisConcierge.com. His weekly syndicated newspaper column and features about cannabis ran for five years until March 2020.

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