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Illinois Just Legalized Cannabis. Here’s What Happens Next

Illinois Just Legalized Cannabis. Here’s What Happens Next

David Downs
June 25, 2019
(Sean Pavone/iStock)
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker made history today by signing a bill legalizing the adult use of cannabis in the Land of Lincoln. Pritzker might as well fire a starting gun.

Gov. J. B. Pritzker holds a bill that legalizes adult-use cannabis in the state of Illinois Tuesday, June 25, 2019 at Sankofa Cultural Arts and Business Center in Chicago. Illinois becomes the 11th to legalize the adult-use of recreational marijuana. (Amr Alfiky/AP Photo)

The race is now on to get about 55 Illinois adult-use stores open, serve potentially millions of customers, and dismantle the decades-old drug war machine. Aspiring retailers have just weeks to apply for licenses. Illinois state agencies must immediately start creating programs to license them. People currently facing low-level marijuana charges can petition to have cases dropped effective immediately.

To give you an idea of how far we’ve come: California’s 1996 medical marijuana law, the nation’s first, could fit on a postcard. The bill signed into law by Pritzker today ran to more than 600 pages.

We read the entire 610-page bill so you don’t have to. Here’s what happens next in a legalized Illinois.

(Julia Sumpter/Leafly)

Stores Open Jan. 1, 2020

Personal Rights Kick in Jan. 1, 2020, Too


How to grow marijuana indoors: A beginner’s guide

Criminal Justice Savings Start Immediately


Legalization Gave Police Time to Fight Real Crime, Study Finds

Illinois marijuana legalization will make medical dispensaries much busier when they are approved to sell adult use cannabis. (Courtesy of Mission Illinois)

Illinois medical dispensaries will get much busier when they are approved to sell adult use cannabis. (Courtesy of Mission Illinois)

The Adult-Use Market Rapidly Ramps Up

“The existing license holders should have the opportunity to do quite well,” said Illinois dispensary operator Kris Krane, a Chicago-based national cannabis regulations expert and president of 4Front Ventures. “I’m not really hearing any complaints about how much they’re going to have to spend to participate in the adult use market.”

Unprecedented Equity Provisions

Opening a licensed cannabis store in the US is not like opening up a lemonade stand. Cannabis remains a federally illegal Schedule I controlled substance. Opening a store is a major commercial real estate undertaking that requires substantial capital—in the millions, not thousands—and a sharp legal team. Selling cannabis is but one skill of hundreds that any team needs.

Consequently, the folks who sold illegal marijuana—and got busted for it—are often among the most disadvantaged when it comes to obtaining a license to sell legally.

HB 1438, the bill signed into law today, blunts the discriminatory effects of heavy regulation and fees with a slew of grants, carve outs, community college courses, business incubators, sponsorships, and diversity bonus points for licenses applicants. Illinois will pay for it out of the deep pockets of incumbent players.


‘Legalization 2.0’: Social Equity Becomes a Key Question

Adjustments and Annual Reporting

Lastly, the new Illinois law should prove to be more flexible than most, due to the fact that it was created through the state legislature and not via a statewide ballot initiative. By 2021, state agencies must make public reports on the program’s status and progress toward its goals. There are mechanisms built into the law that allow lawmakers and regulators to fairly easily increase or decrease taxes, fees, and license allocations.

In many ways, Illinois has set the template for the legalization bills coming to future states in the Midwest and East Coast.

“This makes it a lot easier for Rhode Island and Connecticut and New York and New Jersey,” said Krane. “You needed one state to get this done to give a little push to some of these other states. I think we’re going to start seeing a wave of these states over the next couple of years now.”

Illinois Legalization Implementation Timeline
June 25, 2019
State officials release application for Early Approval Adult Use Licenses
Cities start thinking about local votes to ban
Dispensaries and farms have 60 days to apply to sell or grow adult use cannabis
Emergency rulemaking begins at Dept of Agriculture and others
Illinois State Police must identify cases eligible for expungement and notify defendants
Illinois State Police must begin automatically expunging small-time marijuana arrest records older than one year, if no charges were filed
Summer ’19
State loans itself $17M to start Cannabis Business Development Fund
Dispensaries submit applications for Early Approval Adult Use Licenses
Medical cannabis farms submit applications for Early Approval Adult Use Cultivation Center license
Departments have 60 days to approve a complete application for a store or farm
DUI Task Force created
Fall ’19
Cultivation taxes kick in 7% in September
Adult Use Dispensing Organization License Application out by Oct. 1
Early Approval farms start selling to Early Approval stores on Dec. 1
Dispensary staff must complete Responsible Vendor Program by Dec. 1
ISP must approve or deny expungement petitions within 60 days of receipt
Courts must expunge records within 60 days of order
Permanent rulemaking deadline for Dept of Agriculture, others
Jan. 1 2020
Adult Use sales start at up to 55 dispensaries and/or their secondary site
Personal rights kick in for possession, consumption, transportation, etc.
“Purchaser” taxes begin 10% state (+15% for hash)
Counties and cities can begin imposing taxes in small increments, capped at 3.75% county, 3% city
Infused license application and Transporter application released
Potential local votes on taxes, bans
Adult Use Dispensing Organization License Application window closes
Q1 2020
Up to 75 Conditional Adult Use Dispensing Organization licenses issued by May 1 (47 in Chicago area)
Community College Program application available by Feb. 1
Infuser license application deadline is March 15
Q2 2020
Potential local votes on taxes, bans
Dept of Agriculture begins assessing medical cannabis supply levels quarterly
Growers must begin using a licensed Transporter
Q3 2020
Up to 40 Craft Cultivation licenses issued
Community College Program applications due by July 1
Up to 40 Infused licenses issued by July 1
Transporting licenses issued by July 1
Up to eight Community College Program licenses Issued by September
DUI Task Force recommendations due
Jan. 1 2021
Early Adult Use licenses start expiring
60 more Craft Farm licenses could be approved
Community College Courses could start
Annual program reporting requirements begin
Program adjustments to fees and license allocations can begin
March 31, 2021
Social Equity Inclusion Plans must be completed
Disparity and availability study must be commissioned
Q3 2021
Equity report due by September 30
60 more Infused licensees could be approved by December 2021
60 more Craft Farm licenses could be approved by December 2021
Up to 110 more Conditional Adult Use Dispensing Organization licenses issued
DUI Task Force dissolves
More Craft Growers could be approved (max 150)
Automatic expungements by ISP
Early Adult Use Dispensing Organization licenses expire March 31
Number of shops, farms, infusers, as well as fees can be modified by Department
Automatic expungements by ISP (Records from 2000 to 2013)
Fees modifiable directly by department, instead of legislature
Assessment of costs of raw materials for infusers
Annual reporting on overall program efficacy plus consumer access, and diversity reporting
Automatic expungements by ISP (records prior to 2000)
Annual reporting on overall program efficacy plus consumer access, and diversity reporting
Number of stores could reach maximum 500 in state

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David Downs

David Downs directs news and lifestyle coverage as the California Bureau Chief for Leafly.com. He's written for WIRED, Rolling Stone and Billboard, and is the former cannabis editor of the San Francisco Chronicle, as well as the author of several cannabis books including 'Marijuana Harvest' by Ed Rosenthal and David Downs. He co-hosts The Hash podcast. TW: @davidrdowns | IG @daviddowns

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