Illinois lawmaker proposes legislation to legalize marijuana

Illinois lawmaker proposes legislation to legalize marijuana

Under state Rep. Kelly Cassidy’s proposal, Illinoisans age 21 and older could legally possess, manufacture and sell marijuana.

An Illinois lawmaker has filed legislation to legalize marijuana use, manufacture and distribution in the state, treating the substance like alcohol.

State Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago, filed an amendment to House Bill 2353 on March 22 that revises the state’s Cannabis Control Act, making a number of sweeping changes “[i]n the interest of allowing law enforcement to focus on violent and property crimes, generating revenue for education and other purposes, and individual freedom.” These changes include:

  • Marijuana legal for anyone age 21 or older. The substance would be regulated the same as alcohol – buyers must show identification when purchasing, and selling to anyone under age 21 would be illegal. Public smoking would remain illegal, and punishable by a fine of up to $100.
  • Manufacturing and distributing marijuana legal for anyone age 21 or older. But “cultivation” of marijuana plants may not proceed in public view. Growers must also ensure anyone younger than 21 does not have access to the plants, and growers may only grow the plants on property they own legally – or with the consent of the property owner. Anyone who violates these stipulations would face a fine of up to $750. Anyone wishing to grow, process, cultivate, harvest, possess, sell or purchase industrial hemp or industrial hemp-related products would be required to get a state license to do so.
  • A possession limit of 28 grams for state residents. Nonresidents may possess only 14 grams of marijuana.
  • Smoking marijuana while driving still illegal. This legislation would not legalize driving under the influence. Moreover, anyone caught driving while smoking marijuana may be fined up to $200 or have his or her driver’s license suspended for up to six months, or both, for the first violation. People caught for subsequent violations could face a fine of up to $500 and a driver’s license suspension of up to a year.
  • Legalizes the sale, use of marijuana “accessories.” Anyone 21 or older may sell or use marijuana accessories, such as a bong or vaporizer.
  • 180 days to create rules for implementation. If the amendment passes, the Department of Agriculture would have 180 days to create regulations for cannabis establishments. The list of required regulations includes:
    • Procedures for the issuance, renewal, suspension and revocation of a registration to operate a cannabis establishment
    • A schedule of application and renewal fees not to exceed $5,000, with this upper limit adjusted annually for inflation
    • Security requirements including lighting, physical security, video and alarm requirements
    • Employment and training requirements

The amendment language also includes wording to allow local governments to regulate marijuana as well, with the added option to create a local regulating authority.

  • Taxing rates for different types of cannabis. These rates would be adjusted annually for inflation.
    • $50 per 28 grams on all cannabis flowers
    • $15 per 25 grams on all parts of cannabis other than cannabis flowers and immature cannabis plants
    • $25 per immature cannabis plant
  • Rules on how cannabis tax revenue would be distributed. Revenue would be distributed every three months as follows:
    • 30 percent to the State Board of Education
    • 10 percent to the Department of Public Health for use in evidence-based, voluntary programs for the prevention or treatment of alcohol, tobacco and cannabis abuse
    • 10 percent to the Department of Public Health for a scientifically and medically accurate public education campaign educating youth and adults about the health and safety risks of alcohol, tobacco and cannabis
    • 50 percent to the general revenue fund
  • Employers free to deal with marijuana in the workplace as they see fit. Cassidy’s amendment makes clear that her legislation is not “intended to require an employer to permit or accommodate the use, consumption, possession, transfer, display, transportation, sale, or growing of cannabis in the employer’s workplace or to affect the ability of employers to have policies restricting the use of cannabis by employees or discipline employees who are under the influence of cannabis in the employer’s workplace.”

Cassidy’s amendment has been referred to the House Rules Committee.

Illinois decriminalized small amounts of marijuana in July 2016, when Gov. Bruce Rauner signed legislation making possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana punishable by a fine of between $100 and $200. Prior to this legislation, offenders faced a misdemeanor charge, resulting in a fine of up to $1,500 and possible jail time of up to six months.

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