Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Illinois governor signs cannabis legalization bill

Illinois approves legal weed, expunging criminal records for pot crimes  - Trevor Hughes, USA Today:

June 25, 2019 - "Illinois on Tuesday became the 11th state to legalize the sale and use of recreational marijuana for adults.... With Gov. J.B. Pritzker's signature, the new law is the first of its kind passed by a state legislature and signed by a governor. It capped off a legislative year in which legalization efforts sputtered in New York and New Jersey....

"Illinois, which has more than 12 million residents, is the second-most-populous state to permit recreational cannabis, behind California. Regulators will spend the next few months developing a system for taxing and testing cannabis and will launch sales Jan. 1.....

"Marijuana remains illegal at the federal level, but since 2014, federal prosecutors have generally ignored marijuana sales in 10 states that legalized personal use: Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Oregon, Nevada, Vermont and Washington, along with the District of Columbia. In all of those states but Vermont, voters approved legalization. Vermont's legislatively approved measure permits only personal growing and use, not sales.

"The Illinois law lets resident adults buy and possess up to 30 grams of cannabis "flower," along with marijuana-infused foods known as edibles and small amounts of highly concentrated extracts. Nonresidents could buy half the amount.

"Consumers would pay up to 34.75% tax on their purchases, depending on potency. Regulators would give preference points to members of minority groups seeking to get business licenses, and state-certified labs would test products for potency and contaminants, a growing concern among users. Backers said the measure will create jobs in communities around the state, an argument made by Canadian officials when they legalized marijuana nationally last year.

"Money raised by the new taxes would first be dedicated to expunging about 770,000 minor cannabis-related cases. Expungement has long been a goal of marijuana-legalization advocates, who argue the federal government's war on drugs disproportionately targeted minorities. Other states have similar provisions, usually added after the fact, but Illinois' law is the first to contain such a sweeping expungement provision from the start. Any tax money left over would be used to support drug treatment and enforcement programs, improve mental health counseling access and bolster the state's general fund....

"Kris Krane, a member of the marijuana trade group National Cannabis Industry Association, said Illinois' move would probably pave the way for more legislative legalization."

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