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Illinois Becomes the 11th State to Legalize Recreational Cannabis 

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Today, Governor J.B. Pritzker signed a bill  into law that will legalize recreational cannabis in Illinois starting January 2020.  This is a momentous victory for cannabis reform in the state and will reshape how the Illinois addresses marijuana related crimes. Illinois is the 11th U.S. state to legalize and regulate adult-use marijuana, and the first to pass a bill through the legislature.

The Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act

The Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act (CRTA) passed in the House with a 66-47 vote on May 31, the final day before the Session ended. The Senate passed the measure two days earlier on May 29. Under the new law, adults over the age of 21 can legally purchase, possess, and consume cannabis. The state will oversee the drafting regulations and licensing cannabis cultivators, manufacturers, and retailers

Illinois residents of age will be able to possess up to 30 grams of flower, five grams of THC concentrate and five grams of THC in a cannabis-infused product. Medical marijuana patients are allowed to cultivate a maximum of five plants in their homes, but this privilege is only extended to medical patients not recreational consumers. Out-of-state visitors are allowed possess only half those amounts of residents.

Expungements for Cannabis Convicts

By signing the bill, Governor Pritzker also passed provisions that will provide automatic expungements for anyone convicted of possessing up to 30 grams of cannabis. People with possession convictions over 30 grams and under 500 grams will need to petition a court in conjunction with the state attorney to vacate the conviction.

Senior counsel for the Marijuana Policy Project, Chris Lindsey noted that, “It’s got absolutely historic equity provisions. It does an amazing amount to try to reduce the harms caused by the war on cannabis. It just hits so many of the notes. I’m extremely proud of everybody that was working in Illinois to make it possible.”

The law also establishes social equity policies that will show favoritism to minority business owners priority in poor areas, and applicants who were previously arrested and convicted of misdemeanor marijuana crime. Senator Heather Steans from Chicago co-sponsored the bill to legalize recreational cannabis and pointed out that prohibition was ineffective, and regulating cannabis sales will improve social fairness, make it safer to consume, and will generate much-needed tax revenue for the state.

Cannabis Taxes

Once the regulated market is in full swing, legal cannabis sales are estimated to generate around $500 million a year in taxes. The state will set a 10% tax on products with up to 35% THC; 20% for cannabis-infused products such as edibles; and 25% for THC concentrations of more than 35%. There will also be local sales taxes added based on where each business is located.

Upon signing the bill Governor Pritzker exclaimed that, “In the past 50 years, the war on cannabis has destroyed families, filled prisons with nonviolent offenders, and disproportionately disrupted black and brown communities...With this legislation, our state once again is a leader, putting forward the most equity-centric cannabis legalization in the nation.”

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