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Illinois Lawmaker Files First Cannabis Legalization Bill

On January 25, 2019, House Representative Carol Ammons (D-103) of Urbana filed the “Cannabis Legalization Equity Act,” the first Illinois adult-use cannabis legalization bill. Cannabis would be treated  in a manner similar to alcohol. One of her priorities in crafting this legislation is to make sure that minorities harmed by the decades long “War on Drugs” are given ample opportunities to participate in the emerging recreational cannabis market.

Here are the main points of House Bill 0902:

  • Adults 21 and older would be licensed to possess, purchase, consume, display, and grow cannabis, as well as transport cannabis accessories
  • Home grow up to 24 mature plants
  • Possession outside of one’s premises up to 224 grams or 8 oz
  • Creation of social consumption venues to smoke or ingest cannabis products
  •  State revenue generated at an excise rate of 10% of the sale price of the sale or transfer of cannabis from a cultivation facility to a retail facility or product manufacturing facility
  • At least 51% of licenses for cannabis cultivation facilities to go to minority business owners
  • At least 51% of licenses for retail cannabis stores to go to minority business owners
  • Driving under the influence is still illegal
  • Only “legitimate, taxpaying business people” would receive the necessary licenses to sell cannabis
  • Cannabis products will be tested, labeled and regulated to ensure that the consumer is protected from harm and is informed of their contents
  • Industrial hemp will be regulated separately from higher THC strains
  • Civil, not criminal penalty for minors who attempt to buy cannabis with a fine of $200-$400
  • Authorizes medical researchers to conduct cannabis studies with participants 21 and older

This bill is not expected to pass since it goes much further than the Cassidy-Steans proposed legislation of possession of 1 oz of cannabis and home grow of 5 plants. It does serve a very important function of initiating the cannabis legalization debate in the Illinois General Assembly.

Representative Carol Ammons is a long-time cannabis advocate. She supported recreational legalization prior to taking office in 2015. She was one of the co-sponsors for Cassidy’s possession decriminalization bill. She has chosen the language of her bill very carefully. Its purpose is to allow “law enforcement to focus on violent and property crimes, generating revenue for education and other public purposes, and individual freedom.”

The modus operandi for such a controversial policy change as legalizing recreational cannabis will be a long process. It involves lawmakers, lobbyists and administration officials working out the details in closed meetings. Once a proposal has been reached, it is put into bill form and presented to the public in town hall settings.

Ammons has already held several meetings with her colleagues in order to write the legislation. She is respectful of the work that Cassidy and Steans have put into their proposed bill and has no intention of undermining their efforts.

How Ammons’ Legislation Differs From that of Cassidy/Steans 

Cassidy/Steans are still hammering out the specifics on how the tax revenue will be allocated while Ammons has determined how the 10% excise tax will be divided up:

  • 30% goes to the state school fund
  • 50% goes to the General Fund
  • 20% divided among the State Employees Retirement Pension, the Teachers Retirement System,  the State Universities Retirement System and the Illinois State Police, to hire and train officers to enforce the law in a respectful manner.
  • Medical cannabis businesses may sell recreational cannabis
  • A limit of $5,000 for the application and licensing fee

Illinois National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) is holding its lobbying day in Springfield at the Statehouse on Wednesday, February 20, 2019. That is the same day that Governor Pritzker will give his budget address. The likelihood is that some form of recreational cannabis legislation will pass this year.

Source:, First Bill Emerges This Year to Legalize Marijuana in Illinois-Would Allow Up To 24 Plants At Home, Robert McCoppin and Dan Petrella, Feb 8, 2019, First Illinois Bill Proposed To Legalize Pot ‘More in Line with How We Treat Alcohol,’ Rebecca Anzel and Peter Hancock, Feb 12, 2019

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