Democratic state Rep. Carol Ammons of Illinois has introduced a bill in the legislature that would legalize the recreational use of marijuana and create a regulated cannabis economy. The measure, House Bill 902, was filed in the House of Representatives on January 25.
If passed, the bill would create a system to license and regulate businesses to cultivate and sell cannabis. Adults would be permitted to cultivate up to 24 plants at home and possess the marijuana and cannabis products produced by the grow. Away from home, adults could legally possess up to 224 grams (about half a pound) of cannabis. HB 902 would also allow for cannabis lounges that permit the public consumption of marijuana.
Ammons’ bill would require 10 percent of the net income of cannabis businesses to go to the local governing authority and a state excise tax of 10 percent would be assessed on the cannabis sold by cultivators to processors or retailers. Revenue from the state tax would be divided among various programs, with 30 percent going to a state school fund; 50 percent to the general fund; 7.5 percent to government employee retirement programs; and 2.5 percent to the Illinois State Police to hire and train drug enforcement officers.
HB 902 also includes social equity provisions, including requirements that at least 51 percent of the licenses issued for cannabis cultivation facilities and at least 51 percent of the licenses issued for retail cannabis stores be located in communities disproportionately harmed by the war on drugs. The measure also allows for the expungement of some non-violent marijuana offenses from defendants’ criminal records.
“The conversation needs to shift to how we’re going to address the disproportionate harm in our communities,” Ammons said. “We want to make sure people who have been criminalized can become part of the economy.”
Another cannabis legalization bill, which Ammons supported last legislative session, is also under consideration in Illinois. That measure by Rep. Kelly Cassidy and Sen. Heather Steans, who are also both Democrats, is more restrictive than HB 902, only allowing up to five plants to be grown at home and with no provisions for public cannabis lounges. Social equity programs were included in their bill, which is currently being retooled for the new session with input from the governor’s office, law enforcement, and other lawmakers, and should be introduced by April, according to the Chicago Tribune.
“We’re working with a lot of organizations and the administration to do an updated draft of the bill,” Steans said. “It’s not going to pass before May. We may have several iterations to go to get a draft and negotiate again.”
The sponsors of both measure plan town hall meetings to present their proposals before the beginning of legislative hearings.
“It’s a big subject,” Ammons said. “We can’t rush it through.”
The first reading of HB 902 was held on January 28 and the bill was then referred to the House Rules Committee for consideration.
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