It’s a new year and, for Illinois, a new era of recreational marijuana.
Weed dispensaries across the state opened their doors before sunrise Wednesday, welcoming long lines of customers – some who had been waiting since 4 a.m.
“Cheers to lighting up the start of 2020!” one dispensary, Sunnyside, wrote on its Facebook page.
Under Illinois law, anyone over 21 with a valid state ID or driver’s license can purchase recreational marijuana from licensed retailers.
Residents may legally possess up to 30 grams of cannabis flower, 5 grams of concentrate and 500 milligrams of THC in products such as edibles. Non-Illinois residents in the state may possess up to only half as much as residents.
The law also includes a “social equity” plan to improve diversity in the industry by giving a leg up to minority entrepreneurs disproportionately impacted by poverty and the war on drugs. The law expunges certain drug-based criminal records and establishes a fund to provide financial resources for business start-ups, among other provisions.
Illinois Gov. J. B. Pritzker rang in 2020 by granting more than 11,000 pardons for low-level marijuana convictions Tuesday.
“The war on cannabis has destroyed families. It has filled jails and prisons with nonviolent offenders. It has disproportionately affected black and brown communities,” Pritzker said at a press conference on Chicago’s South Side.
“Every state that has legalized cannabis has seen high demand and long lines in its earliest weeks, and to be sure, our state will, too. But unlike other states, in Illinois, we purposely built a system where the market has room to grow, so that entrepreneurs, including especially those from the communities devastated by the war on drugs, will have real opportunities in this industry.”
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Illinois is the 11th state in the nation to allow the sale of recreational marijuana. Thirty-three states allow the sale of marijuana for medical use, which Illinois legalized in 2013.
Some restrictions still apply, however. Landowners can ban cannabis use, and employers can prohibit employees from having THC in their systems.
It’s illegal to drive while impaired and to possess marijuana on federal land and federally funded facilities, including some hospitals, public housing and more. Marijuana is still illegal at the federal level and cannot be taken across state lines – by any form of transportation.
The marijuana industry in Illinois could eventually bring in $1.69 billion to $2.58 billion in annual revenue, according to a study by Colorado consulting firm Freedman and Koski. That would mean an additional $440 million to $676 million in annual tax revenue statewide, the study said.
Chicago, which is facing a more than $800 million budget deficit, expects to bring in $3.5 million in revenue from marijuana taxes next year.