On June 25th 2019, Illinois became the 11th state, along with the District of Columbia, to legalize adult-use cannabis, and the first to do so by the legislative process. This followed a long month of anticipation after the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives passed the measure 66-47 in late May, and it was sent over to the desk of Gov. J.B. Pritzker.
Now signed, the law will go into effect in 2020.
So what’s in the bill?
The measure will allow residents of Illinois aged 21 and older to legally purchase and possess 30 grams of cannabis, 5 grams of cannabis concentrate or 500 milligrams of THC contained in a cannabis-infused product. Non-residents can purchase and possess 15 grams of cannabis.
Only state licensed business will be permitted to grow, process and sell cannabis. Cannabis- infused products, such as edibles, will be taxed at 20 percent. Flower or other products with less than 35 percent THC will have a 10 percent sales tax and products with higher than 35 percent THC will be taxed at 25 percent. The law also establishes a 7% gross receipts tax on the sale of marijuana from cultivators to retail locations. The industry is expected to raise around $57 million in taxes and fees by the end of the fiscal year, and $500 million annually by year five.
In addition to the standard regulatory proposals, the bill outlines a number of social justice initiatives to atone for the disportionate impact of prohibition on communities of color. In fact, the bill explicitly makes it easier for people of color to access and benefit from the industry. In the words of Illinois Governor. J.B. Pritzker, “For the many individuals and families whose lives have been changed -- indeed hurt -- because the nation’s War on Drugs discriminated against people of color, this day belongs to you."
To accomplish this goal, the bill includes actions like financial support for those applying for retail licenses and cannabis job training at community colleges. Illinois is also contributing to the movement to push for expungement, which will result in the erasure of as many as 770,000 cannabis convictions in the state alone.
After a long battle during the legislative session, recreational legalization efforts have stalled in both New York and New Jersey, but not all hope is lost. Expect both states to include the measure on the upcoming 2020 ballot. New York may not have be able to legalize, but they have decriminalized.
After a failed attempt to legalize adult-use during the 2016 election, Arizona is another favorite expected to legalize in 2020. Anticipate a campaign for adding adult-use legalization to the ballot to launch at the start of July. Opposition groups were well funded in 2016, raising about $6.5 million thanks to cannabis opposed Gov. Doug Ducey; but advocacy groups and campaign committees like Smart and Safe Arizona are gearing up for the fight. They will need 237,645 valid signatures by July 2, 2020, to qualify for that year’s ballot.
Don’t sleep on Florida! After proven success on the medical side after its legalization in 2016, this underdog is growing grassroot support for recreational legalization thanks to advocacy groups like Regulate Florida. The group failed to garner enough support in 2018 to get legalization on the ballot, but is trying again for 2020. Currently, 62% of voters in the Sunshine State approve of recreational legalization.
Celebration is truly in order for each and every gain we make in the quest for total legalization, but keep in mind that this is only the beginning of a budding social and cultural movement at large. Each legalization not only proves a rising support of the Green Rush, but also the evolution of societal perspectives as a whole. With 66% of voting aged Americans in support of full cannabis legalization, it truly feels like nationwide legalization is on the horizon… but only time will tell (and the 2020 election cycle). The cannabis industry is still getting its feet under it, so now is the time to make the leap into the space.