Politics & Government

Looking forward to legal weed? Here’s a Q&A about Illinois’ marijuana legalization

Gov. J.B. Pritzker plans to sign a bill to have Illinois join 10 other states and the District of Columbia in legalizing recreational marijuana.

During the last week of the spring session, the General Assembly, with a 66-47 vote in the state House, and 38-17 in the state Senate, passed the measure.

So with legal weed coming to Illinois, here are a few things you need to know about who can sell, and not sell, and who will be allowed to smoke marijuana, and not.

When can businesses start selling and people start legally purchasing marijuana?

Jan. 1, 2020.

Who will be able to smoke recreational marijuana when it becomes legal?

Anyone 21 years old or older. The same age for smoking tobacco and drinking alcohol.

How much marijuana will I be able to possess?

Illinois residents would be allowed to possess any combination of 30 grams of cannabis flower, 5 grams of cannabis concentrate, and 500 milligrams of THC contained in a cannabis-infused product. Non-residents will be able to possess half of those amounts. No one will be allowed to transport marijuana across state lines, the legislation says.

Who will be able to sell?

The 55 medical marijuana dispensaries will probably be the first locations to get into the recreational marijuana business.

The Green Solution in Sauget could possibly make the move into the recreational business, but would not divulge its plans.

“The Green Solution applauds efforts to legalize the adult-use of cannabis and make its benefits available to everyone in the state of Illinois,” Kyle Speidell, co-president of The Green Solution Illinois,said in an emailed statement. “The Green Solution is grateful for the hard work that legislators, stakeholders and the governor have put into the bill and is hopeful that it will represent the gold standard for adult-use legislation. However, we will withhold comment on future plans for our dispensaries until we have time for a thoughtful review.”

HCI Solutions runs a dispensary in Collinsville but a company representative could not be reached for comment.

As people seek to open up other marijuana businesses, they would need to undergo a background check to obtain a license to dispense or cultivate marijuana.

What if I don’t want to see this in my community?

The legislation does include a provision for local communities to opt out of allowing businesses to sell legal marijuana without losing their ability to receive tax proceeds from the cannabis sales. Local municipalities also will be able to set up zoning rules to govern the time, place, manner and number of marijuana establishment operations

Where can I light up a joint?

Not in public.

There will be no public consumption of marijuana allowed, according to bill sponsor state Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago, and not in locations where smoking is banned under the Smoke Free Illinois Act, (known as the smoking ban), according to the marijuana legalization. However if local municipalities permit it, consumption could take place at marijuana-related businesses.

Also, driving while under the influence of marijuana will still be illegal. The ability for law enforcement to accurately test for marijuana levels, like with blood-alcohol levels, was a concern raised during the legislative debate.

What about my boss? Can my employer keep me from smoking weed?

Employers may maintain a zero drug tolerance workplace under this proposal, so you still can be drug tested. Also, landlords won’t be required to allow tenants to possess or consume cannabis products on their property.

How much in taxes will I pay when I buy legal marijuana?

Any marijuana with 35% or lower THC will be taxed at 10% of the purchase price. Anything above 35% THC, will be taxed at 25%. A cannabis infused product will be taxed at 20% of the purchase price.

How many dispensaries will there ultimately be?

Initially, the state’s 55 medical marijuana dispensaries will be able to sell recreation marijuana. They each will also be able to open up a second location, Cassidy said.

By the summer 2020, there can be an additional 75 dispensaries in the state. According to the legislation, of those 75 dispensaries, there can be up to four dispensaries in the St. Louis-area; the Carbondale-Marion area will have one, and non-metropolitan areas in Southern Illinois will have up to two.

By the end of 2021, up to an additional 110 dispensaries will be allowed to open.

Dispensaries also have to be at least 1,500 feet away from each other, the legislation says.

I have a green thumb. I grow my own tomatoes, potatoes, onions, peas, green beans and bell peppers in my backyard. Will I be able to grow marijuana at home?

Yes, but only if you’re a medical marijuana patient. Medical patients will be permitted to possess up to five cannabis plants more than 5 inches tall under certain conditions, state legislative memos say. The plants must be kept on their residential property in a closed and locked space away from public view that is also reasonably inaccessible by a person under 21 years of age, according to legislative documents.

Speaking of medical marijuana, what will happen with the medical marijuana program?

During the last days of session, legislators approved legislation to continue the medical marijuana program, which began in 2013, as a pilot program. Under legislation that was passed, the program becomes permanent, and the legislators added medical conditions where medical marijuana can be prescribed for autism, chronic pain, irritable bowel syndrome, migraines, osteoarthritis, anorexia nervosa, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, Neuro-Behcet’s Autoimmune Disease, neuropathy, polycystic kidney disease, superior canal and dehiscene syndrome.

I want to get into the marijuana business, it seems like a big moneymaker. How do I get in?

Well you would have to go through an application process to run a dispensary or cultivation center. The Department of Financial and Professional Regulation would handle dispensary licenses. The Department of Agriculture would handle cultivation center licenses.

To apply to be a dispensing location, an application process is scheduled to take place between Oct. 1, 2019, and Jan. 1, 2020.

The state also plans to have programs at eight community colleges, five of which will be at community colleges with more than 50 percent low income, to students to work with, study and grow live cannabis plants to prepare them for careers in the legal cannabis industry, according to state Senate briefing documents.

There’s also a social equity program to promote minority involvement in the marijuana industry, and to give participants access to grants and loans in order to help cover some of the upfront costs of participating in the market.

How much will legal marijuana generate for the state?

The program is expected to generate produce $58 million in general revenue in the coming budget year. In the second year, there would be $140 million in revenue and up to $500 million when the program is “fully mature,” bill proponents have said.

What did opponents of legal recreational marijuana say?

Southern Illinois state Rep. Terri Bryant, R-Murphysboro, expressed health concerns

“I believe we’re setting up a future generation for serious health problems,” Bryant said.

State Sen. Rachelle Aud Crowe, D-Glen Carbon, who previously worked as an assistant state’s attorney in Madison County, was among the senators to vote “no” on the measure.

“There are a lot of things I think that make sense, but it ultimately came down to that road side testing just not being court validated yet,” Crowe said.

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Joseph Bustos is the state affairs and politics reporter for the Belleville News-Democrat, where he strives to hold elected officials accountable and provide context to decisions they make. He has won multiple awards from the Illinois Press Association for coverage of sales tax referenda.