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Saturday, July 20, 2019

Illinois becomes 11th state to legalize recreational marijuana

Their View

By Vincent Caruso and Austin Berg, Illinois Policy Institute | Jun 26, 2019


Illinois is the latest state to roll the consumption and sale of marijuana into the legal marketplace.

On June 25, Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed into law House Bill 1438, which will make legal statewide the consumption of marijuana for nonmedicinal purposes. Legal sales will begin Jan. 1, 2020.

The new law will allow all Illinois adults aged 21 and older to possess up to 30 grams of marijuana. Those using marijuana for medical purposes would be allowed grow marijuana at home, although recreational users are still prohibited from home growing.

HB 1438 also includes expungement provisions for those arrested for marijuana possession prior to the new law. Those with convictions involving 30 grams of marijuana or less will have their criminal records referred to the state’s Prisoner Review Board and then to Gov. J.B. Pritzker for a pardon – as long as those convictions were not associated with a violent crime. If the governor grants the pardon, the Illinois attorney general will seek expungement. Those convicted for possession of 30 to 500 grams of marijuana will also have the option of petitioning for expungement themselves, or local state’s attorneys can pursue expungement for those convictions on a case by case basis.

As of June 30, 2017, 372 people were serving prison sentences on cannabis charges in Illinois, and 360 on parole, according to the Illinois Department of Corrections’ Fiscal Year 2017 Annual Report.

The bill also creates a system of licensure for those looking to cultivate and dispense marijuana in the marketplace, but with heavy startup costs. On top of a $100,000 application fee, dispensaries would pay a Cannabis Business Development Fee amounting to the lesser of 5% of the company’s total annual sales or a flat $750,000 – “but not less than $250,000.”

State law has allowed Illinoisans to possess small amounts of marijuana without criminal penalty since July 2016, when Gov. Bruce Rauner signed into law Illinois’ decriminalization bill, which automatically expunged civil citation records of anyone charged with possessing 10 or fewer grams of marijuana before that law.

Illinois is the 11th state in the nation to legalize recreational marijuana, and the second in the Midwest. In 2018, Michigan voters approved a referendum to legalize marijuana. Illinois is the first state in the nation to legalize recreational marijuana via the legislative process rather than through a ballot initiative.

Here are the answers to commonly asked questions about what the new law will mean for Illinoisans:

When can I buy marijuana in Illinois?

Consumers will be able to buy marijuana for recreational use from licensed sellers on Jan. 1, 2020.

Who can buy marijuana?

Consumers aged 21 and older will be able to buy marijuana products from licensed sellers in Illinois – with or without a medical marijuana card.

Who can sell marijuana legally?

Medical marijuana dispensaries will be the only legal sellers of marijuana for recreational use in January 2020. Beginning in mid-2020, Illinois will grant additional licenses to dozens of new stores, processors, cultivators and transporters.

Up to 295 stores could be in operation in Illinois by 2022, according to Marijuana Business Daily. But county and municipal governments will have the power to decide whether to allow sellers to operate in their area.

How much can I possess?

Illinoisans will be able to legally possess 30 grams, or about an ounce, of cannabis flower. The legal limit for cannabis concentrate is 5 grams. And the limit for cannabis-infused products, such as edibles or tinctures, is 500 milligrams of THC, the chemical that gets users high. Illinois visitors will be allowed to possess half of those amounts.

Where can I smoke legally?

It will be legal to smoke in one’s own home and on-site in some cannabis-related businesses.

Use is prohibited in:

  • Any public place, such as streets or parks
  • In any motor vehicle
  • On school grounds, with the exception of medical users
  • Near someone under the age of 21
  • Near an on-duty school bus driver, police officer, firefighter or corrections officer
Any person, business or landlord can prohibit use on private property. Illinois colleges and universities will also be allowed to ban marijuana use.

Can I grow marijuana?

Medical marijuana patients would be allowed to grow five plants at a time. But non-patients are not allowed to grow marijuana at home – punishable by a civil penalty of $200 for growing up to five plants.

Only Illinois’ 20 existing licensed medical marijuana cultivation facilities will be licensed to grow marijuana initially. In 2020, “craft growers” will be able to apply for licenses to cultivate up to 5,000 square feet.

How will it be taxed?

Purchases of cannabis flower or products with less than 35% THC are slapped with a 10% sales tax. Cannabis-infused products such as edibles come with a 20% tax. Products with a THC concentration higher than 35% come with a 25% tax. Illinois municipalities and counties will be able to levy additional local sales taxes.

The new law also imposes a 7% gross receipts tax on the sale of marijuana from cultivators to dispensaries – a cost that will likely be passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices.

What happens to criminal records related to marijuana?

People convicted for possession of under 30 grams of marijuana prior to legalization would have their records referred to the state’s Prisoner Review Board and then to Gov. J.B. Pritzker for a pardon – as long as those convictions were not associated with a violent crime. If the governor grants the pardon, the Illinois attorney general would then seek expungement.

Those convicted for possession between 30 to 500 grams would have the option of petitioning for expungement themselves. Local state’s attorneys could also pursue expungement for those convictions on a case-by-case basis.

What about driving under the influence?

Illinois already has a law on the books that makes drivers with THC blood concentration of five nanograms or more per milliliter guilty of driving under the influence, regardless of whether the driver is impaired. The new law creates a DUI Task Force led by Illinois State Police to examine best practices for roadside testing.

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