Max Bender

Illinois Becomes 11th State to Legalize Cannabis

Illinois is officially the 11th state to legalize adult-use cannabis and will be the first state to regulate cannabis sales via the legislature. The new law, signed this morning, will also set up nearly 800,000 prior cannabis convictions for expungement.

Full story after the jump.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) signed the state’s historic cannabis legalization and regulation bill today, making Illinois the 11th state to end cannabis prohibition. It is also the first time that a state legislature has independently approved regulations for the commercial cultivation and distribution of cannabis products for adults.

“As the first state in the nation to fully legalize adult-use cannabis through the legislative process, Illinois exemplifies the best of democracy: a bipartisan and deep commitment to better the lives of all of our people.” — Gov. J.B. Pritzker, in a statement, via ABC News

Illinois’ legalization law — which was passed by state lawmakers on May 31 — goes into effect starting January 1, 2020. Under the law, Illinois residents aged 21 or older will be allowed to buy and possess up to 30 grams of cannabis, five grams of cannabis concentrate, and up to 500 milligrams of THC in a cannabis-infused product. Possession/purchase amounts will be halved for non-residents, such as tourists.

The law was also crafted to include sweeping social equity provisions: starting January 1, anyone previously convicted of purchasing or possessing up to 30 grams of cannabis may have those crimes expunged from their criminal record. Additionally, a portion of the state’s cannabis tax revenue will be devoted to impoverished communities and communities of color, which were most negatively affected by prohibition.

Unlike most other states, Illinois’ legalization law will not allow adults to grow their own cannabis plants at home unless they are a registered medical cannabis patient.

The law lays out a regulated marketplace for the plant’s cultivation, production, and distribution, including a licensing and tax structure that will expand on the state’s current, medical cannabis model. However, according to cannabis entrepreneur Kris Krane, the president and co-founder of Chicago-based 4 Front Ventures, this approach will result in severe product shortages during and beyond the market’s launch — a problem that has plagued every other state-legal market at its outset.

“The immediate problem is that these businesses have built a physical production infrastructure designed to meet the demands of a 70,000-person medical market,” Krane wrote in a contribution to Forbes. “They are nowhere near equipped to meet the market demand for 13 million residents and 58 million annual tourists to Chicago alone.”

Until licensing is dramatically expanded, Krane warns that Illinois could realistically become “known as the home of the $800 retail ounce.”

Gov. Pritzker campaigned hard last year on the issue of cannabis legalization. After winning the gubernatorial election in November, he said he wanted Illinois to be the first state in the Midwest to legalize and launch adult-use cannabis sales, hoping to beat out even Michigan — whose voters opted for legalization in 2018 and whose marketplace is expected to launch in late 2019.

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