Illinois Is Going Green

Margarite Wypychowski

BY Margarite Wypychowski

October 14, 2019

Public Affairs

Cannabis is coming. In June, Illinois became the eleventh state to legalize recreational cannabis, starting January 1. And although our state can’t claim to be the first, it does take the lead when it comes to pairing legalization with social justice. Not only does the law allow for the removal of marijuana offenses from criminal records, it provides benefits to communities that were hardest hit by marijuana prosecutions.

The passage of this bill was a huge achievement, but it was just the first step. Now the focus is on how the State will implement these big changes. Here are some things to watch.

Getting from Point A to Point C

First off, if you’re expecting to see tons of new dispensaries pop up on January 1, you’ll be disappointed. That’s because only the businesses licensed to sell medical marijuana are eligible for the first wave of recreational licenses. And right now, that’s a small group of just 55 medical marijuana dispensaries in the entire state. Another batch of 75 more licenses will be awarded before May 2020 — and the State just opened up applications for those.

Many businesses that want to get one of those new licenses feel left in the dark regarding regulations, according to the Chicago Tribune. That’s because “a half-dozen state agencies have authority to propose rules on issues [related to licenses]” but none of those rules have been published yet.

The Pritzker administration is still confident there will be a “robust rollout” on January 1. And just last week, the Governor named State Senator Toi Hutchinson as the state’s new cannabis czar. This is an important move as it’s going to take a lot of leadership and coordination to oversee such a big effort. 

Coming to a Neighborhood Near You?

Even though we’re still a few months from the start of sales, some communities are already saying no to cannabis. According to Crains, Naperville, Libertyville and Bloomingdale recently voted against marijuana sales. Deerfield, Mokena and Wilmette are just some of the communities scheduled to take up the issue soon.

In downstate Illinois, there’s been a mixed reaction with towns like Mt. Vernon and Carbondale likely to allow marijuana sales and towns like Marion and Murphysboro voting against it.

And people in the Loop may have to go to other city neighborhoods to buy marijuana. That’s because Mayor Lightfoot has said Chicago’s central business district, including the Mag Mile, should be off limits. Not all aldermen agree and the issue will be resolved in the City Council.

It will be interesting to see how many communities ultimately vote against marijuana sales and whether that puts a damper on expected tax revenue.

A Fresh Start

I was a little surprised to learn there are almost 600,000 Illinois residents eligible to have their marijuana criminal records cleared or expunged. Even with a relatively minor drug offense on their records, people can struggle to get jobs or find a place to live. But expunging these records won’t be as easy – it may take years. Depending on their specific offense, people’s records will either be cleared a) automatically through local law enforcement; b) by Governor pardon; or c) a petition process through the courts.

While these are three areas to keep an eye on, there’s also issues like employer/employee rights, safe cannabis usage, minority business participation and countless others to consider as Illinois residents get legal access to recreational weed.

VIEW MAIN BLOG
Margarite Wypychowski

BY Margarite Wypychowski

October 14, 2019

Public Affairs