Pot will soon be legal in Illinois. Here are your top questions, answered.
With the sweep of a pen, Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker this week made Illinois the eleventh state in the nation to legalize recreational marijuana use.
Change is in the air, quite literally, as Rolling Stones’ frontman Mick Jagger jokingly reminded a crowd of 60,000 at Soldier Field Tuesday night that the legislation doesn’t go into effect until Jan. 1, noting many at the concert were getting an early jump on the practice.
Just how one can obtain a license to grow, transport and distribute cannabis, can be a bit confusing, with various parameters spelled out in a 599-page omnibus bill, approved by lawmakers in late May.
Here are your top questions, answered:
What kinds of licenses are available?
Licenses are available for cultivation centers, craft growers, transporters, dispensaries and processors.
Cultivation centers can grow and harvest cannabis and cannabis-related products at facilities of up to 210,000 square feet.
Craft growers grow cannabis on a smaller scale, at facilities of up to 5,000 square feet.
Transporters can move or temporarily store cannabis on behalf of a business.
Processors make various types of products - which include edibles, oils and cigarettes - from cannabis plants.
Dispensaries can sell cannabis products to adults over 21, medical patients and their caregivers.
Illinois residents can purchase up to 1 ounce, or 30 grams, of marijuana at a time, and nonresidents can purchase up to a half ounce, or 15 grams, at a time.
Where will these dispensaries be located?
Seventy-five dispensary licenses will be given out by the Illinois Department of Agriculture through January 2021, with dispensaries located in each of the state's 17 regions as defined by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That includes: Bloomington, Cape Girardeau, Carbondale-Marion, Champaign-Urbana, Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, Danville, Davenport-Moline-Rock Island, Decatur, Kankakee, Peoria, Rockford, St. Louis, Springfield, Northwest Illinois nonmetropolitan area, West Central Illinois nonmetropolitan area, East Central Illinois nonmetropolitan area, and Southern Illinois nonmetropolitan area. The number of licenses allotted to various regions is largely based on density, with Chicago and the collar counties awarded the largest number of licenses per region. After that, the Department of Agriculture has the ability to issue 110 more conditional licenses over the next year, and more after that. At no point, according to the new legislation, may there be more than 500 dispensary licenses across the state.
Can some applicants jump the line?
Yes. Early approval licenses allows some dispensaries and cultivation centers to start selling their products as early as Jan. 1st 2020, before regular licensees have even started their application process. These businesses would be preexisting, because they were a part of the medical cannabis industry and thus already have their facilities functioning.
How are licenses awarded?
By a point system. Beginning in 2020, interested applicants can submit applications for craft grower, transporter, processor and dispensary licenses. Applications are scored based on criteria set by either the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation or the Department of Agriculture and awarded to the highest point earners. The point system works as follows:
Scoring Areas for Cannabis License Applications (out of 250 Points):
- Suitability of Employee Training Plan (15 points)
- Security and Record-keeping (65 points)
- Applicant's Business Plan, Financials, Operating and Floor Plan (65 points)
- Knowledge and Experience (30 points)
- Status as a Social Equity Applicant (50 points)
- Labor and employment practices (5 points)
- Environmental Plan (5 points)
- Illinois owner (5 points)
- Status as veteran (5 points)
- Diversity plan (5 points)
* Additional points are also available for community engagement plans as tiebreakers.
What’s the timeline?
- Early Fall 2019: Existing businesses with medical cannabis licenses can apply for recreational licenses
- Cultivation organizations can apply for and receive a single cultivation license
- Non-refundable permit fee: $100,000
- Cannabis development fee: Lesser of $750,000 and 5% of total sales from FY2019 (July 1, 2018 through June 30, 2019), but not less than $250,000
- Dispensing organizations can apply for and receive up to two licenses (costs listed per license)
- Non-refundable permit fee: $30,000
- Must make a contribution to the Cannabis Business Development Fund equalling the lesser of $100,000 and 3% of FY2019 sales; $200,000 for the second license
- Must have a Social Equity Inclusion plan that contributes at least 3% of FY 2019 sales or $100,000 to a program that expands opportunity for new entrants into the cannabis market
- All applicants must also provide extensive details on the logistics and operations of the businesses that would be licensed
- January 1, 2020: Sale of recreational marijuana begins by existing medical cannabis providers
- January 7, 2020: Business applications for new cannabis licenses become available
- May 1, 2020: Dept. of Financial and Professional Regulation (DFPR) can issue up to 75 dispensary licenses; State begins a cannabis disparity study* to understand the demand and impact of cannabis on the state’s communities and markets
- July 1, 2020: The Dept. of Agriculture can issue up to 40 licenses for processors, 40 licenses for craft growers, and unlimited transportation licenses
- Once the disparity and market study is complete, the state can grant additional licenses taking into account the results of the disparity study
How do licenses get renewed?
Licensees will be prompted to renew their license 90 days before its expiration, and are expected to do so annually. The requirements for them to do so successfully are the payment renewal fees ($10,000 for transporters, $20,000 for processors, $45,000 for craft growers and $30,000 for dispensaries), their compliance with the system's regulations and the submission of a diversity report by the transporting company.
Where can’t it be used?
Cannabis use is banned in public places, correctional facilities, on cars, trains, buses and homes that provide childcare. You also can’t use it around those who are younger than 21.
But private landowners and colleges and universities all have the ability also prohibit usage. Local governments can’t prohibit possession, but they can ban or limit the number of cannabis businesses within their boundaries.
Can I drive with it?
No. You can’t drive a car, a boat, a motorcycle or a plane, etc. while under the influence of cannabis.
How much money is it expected to bring in?
That’s a good question. Pritzker has said dispensary licenses alone could raise $170 million next year. But the legislation’s sponsors, Sen. Heather Steans and Kelly Cassidy, have provided lower estimates - projecting bringing in about $60 million in the first year, and $500 million annually in five years’ time.
What does this ‘social equity’ component mean? Does any other state do that?
Steans, Cassidy and Pritzker’s office all say the legislation will make Illinois a model in terms of leveling the playing field among minority communities hit the hardest by prosecution during the War on Drugs. It provides for more funding to programs in those neighborhoods, expungement of some lower-level possession convictions, and incentivizes minority licence applications.
Across the country, California only has local programs, Colorado doesn't consider it, and New York has not yet passed legislation on the subject, though it’s been a topic of consideration in recent years.
California, which legalized recreational marijuana in 2016, allows cities to institute measures for addressing social equity on a local basis, distributing various state grants earmarked for that purpose. Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland, Long Beach and Sacramento are among the cities that have put equity programs in place.
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