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The governor of Illinois and key lawmakers released long-awaited details of a marijuana legalization plan on May 4, 2019.

The state is seen by cannabis reform supporters as one of the movement's strongest opportunities to end prohibition in 2019. Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker campaigned on legalization in 2018, and legislative leaders support the idea. But, until now, the specifics of how the state might craft a legal marijuana market have remained elusive.

Democratic state Sen. Heather Steans filed a placeholder bill on the topic in January 2019 and has worked behind the scenes with other lawmakers, including Democratic Rep. Kelly Cassidy, to craft detailed legislative language as the essentially blank document has advanced through the Senate in preparation for floor votes.

According to an 11-page summary of the legislation obtained by Marijuana Moment, Illinois residents will be allowed to possess 30 grams, or a little more than 1 ounce, of cannabis flower, 5 grams of concentrates and 500 milligrams of THC contained in cannabis-infused products. Non-residents of the state will be able to possess half as much as those amounts during visits.

Home cultivation of up to five plants would be allowed under the legislation, which is 522 pages in length.

Legalization is set to take effect on January 1, 2020, with current medical cannabis businesses getting a head start on applying for licenses in the new recreational market. New dispensaries would be licensed by May 1; processors, craft growers, and transporters would be licensed by July 1. A second wave of businesses would be licensed in late 2021.

The proposal also would create a $20 million low-interest loan program for social equity applicants, defined as businesses with at least 51% ownership and control by people who have been arrested or convicted of marijuana offenses, or majority ownership and control by individuals who have resided in an area disproportionately affected by cannabis prohibition for a specified period of time. Businesses also could qualify by having a majority of employees who meet those criteria.

Application fee waivers also would be available for social equity applicants, and there would be limitations on the number of businesses that any one person or entity can own. Past convictions for possessing, manufacturing, cultivating, or delivering cannabis would eligible for expungement.

A grant program called Restoring Our Communities would be created to “invest in communities that have suffered the most because of discriminatory drug policies.”

Cannabis with a THC level at or below 35% would be taxed at 10% of the purchase price, with higher-potency marijuana getting a 25% tax rate. Infused products would be taxed at 20%. Municipalities could add additional local taxes. Cultivation businesses would pay 7% of their gross receipts in taxes.

Revenue would go toward paying for program costs and, after that, would fund the Restoring Our Communities grant program, substance abuse services, law enforcement grants, and the general state fund.

The governor would appoint a Cannabis Regulation Oversight Officer to oversee the program, with several state departments and agencies having regulatory and enforcement roles.

The legislation also sets out advertising restrictions and packaging requirements.

Municipal officials wanting to opt out of allowing marijuana businesses would have to adopt ordinances to do so within one year of the bill becoming effective. Afterward, local bans could be instituted only via referendums approved by voters.

“There are lots of things I like with this bill but there are other things that I am not as fond of,” Dan Linn, executive director for the Illinois chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), told Marijuana Moment. “However that is usually the sign of a good bill that addresses all the stakeholders' issues.”

“My biggest concern is that there will be supply issues, specifically with the very limited number of cultivation center and craft-grow licenses that would be able to have an adequate amount of product available for market when the first legal sales start,” he said.

It's unknown when the amended legislation will receive House and Senate votes, but the session is scheduled to adjourn on May 31, so the bill would have to move fast.


Featured Image: Illinois considers becoming the next state to legalize cannabis. Pictured, Anish Kapoor's Cloud Gate sculpture in Millennium Park, Chicago. Photo by Hari Nandakumar on Unsplash

This article has been republished from Marijuana Moment under a content syndication agreement. Read the original article here.

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