CHICAGO (IRN) — Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a measure Tuesday to legalize, regulate and tax recreational marijuana for adult use that he said will move the state forward with empathy and hope after decades of drug prohibition policies that disproportionately harmed minority communities in Illinois.
“We can’t turn the clock back, but we can turn the page,” Pritzker said at a bill-signing ceremony in Chicago. “I’m so proud that our state is leading with equity and justice in its approach to cannabis legalization and its regulatory framework.”
While Illinois is the 11th state in the nation to legalize adult-use recreational cannabis, Pritzker said Illinois was the first to do it through the legislative process.
“With this legislation, our state once again is a leader, putting forward the most equity-centric cannabis legalization in the nation,” the governor said.
Pritzker’s signature Tuesday started the rule-making process for the various state agencies – including the Illinois State Police, the Department of Agriculture and others – to set up the regulatory framework for recreational marijuana use in Illinois.
Beginning Jan. 1, the law allows adults 21 and older to buy marijuana at licensed dispensaries and legally carry up to 30 grams the flower product. The legislation set lower thresholds for possession of edible marijuana product and oils.
Although local governments won’t be allowed to prohibit use or possession of cannabis, they will have the authority to regulate the industry through zoning rules. Those rules would allow municipalities to ban dispensaries and cultivation sites.
Recreational cannabis products will come with much higher taxes than medical cannabis. The taxes would be more than 41 percent on the most potent products, such as THC oil and other concentrates. Edible pot products and the dried flower that can be smoked would have lower taxes. Local governments will also be able to levy their own taxes of up to 3 percent.
Revenue from recreational sales, which are expected to begin Jan. 1, would be split among the state, law enforcement agencies and social service providers. Pritzker said 25 percent of the revenue would go to social service providers in communities affected by the War on Drugs.
“And the rest will be used to pay down the state’s bill backlog, help balance our state budget and support crime prevention, law enforcement and public education programs,” the governor said.
The legislation creates a taxpayer-funded revolving loan program designed to help minorities get into the legal marijuana industry as part of a social-equity licensing program.
Tax rates for medical cannabis would remain in line with state taxes on over-the-counter medicines.
Only medical cannabis patients would be able to grow marijuana at home. Home cultivation will be limited to five plants. Law enforcement groups have asked for a follow-up measure to allow for some kind of inspection of such home grows. They fear unregulated home cultivation could mean illegal, untaxed pot sales would continue.
Licensing provisions in the measure would open up to more cultivators and dispensaries, but would be limited. More licenses could be made available after a demand study included in the law.
Part of the legislation addresses the harm of past drug policies by allowing those who have criminal convictions for cannabis possession to get their convictions expunged.
“This legislation will clear the cannabis-related records of non-violent offenders through an efficient combination of automatic expungement, of gubernatorial pardon, and of individual court action,” Pritzker said.
Supporters of the measure have said it is not perfect and that they expect follow-up legislation to address various aspects of the law.