The Candle is Lit: the Illinois Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act signed into law

Action Item: Update your employee policies before 1/1/2020

On June 25, 2019, Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed legislation which will end state law cannabis prohibition in Illinois and replace it with a system to tax and regulate cannabis for adults 21 and over. The new law is comprehensive in its approach: in addition to legalizing state law regulating possession and use for adults, it expands the current medical cannabis licensing system, includes automatic expungement for state cannabis offenses, adds the ability for medical patients to grow cannabis at home, and offers certain benefits to communities deemed to have been disadvantaged by the prior law. Federal classification of cannabis as a “controlled substance” continues, which includes heroin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), marijuana (cannabis), 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (ecstasy), methaqualone, and peyote. Building owners and employers may continue to ban the possession of cannabis on premises and prohibit its use.  
Here are some key provisions of the Illinois Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act:
Cannabis possession and salesStarting January 1, 2020, adults 21 and older may possess cannabis and purchase cannabis products in licensed stores. Possession is limited to:30 grams of raw cannabis;Cannabis-infused product or products containing no more than 500 mg of THC; andFive grams of cannabis product in concentrated form.Non-residents may purchase half that amount, or 15 grams of cannabis, 250 mg of THC in a cannabis-infused product, and 2.5 grams of concentrated cannabis product.
Expunging criminal recordsThe new law will usher in criminal justice changes.The governor’s clemency process will be used for convictions of up to 30 grams. These expungements will be automatic. For amounts of 30-500 grams, the clemency process also applies, however the individual must petition the court to vacate the conviction.In all, around 770,000 cannabis-related records will be eligible for expungement. Background checks will thus no longer disclose cannabis related offenses. 
EquitySocial equity program: The program specifically provides additional points for business applicants, access to financial resources for start-up costs, and resources to certain disadvantaged communities.  How it works:A “social equity applicant” is a business whose ownership or staff who have either been arrested or convicted of a cannabis-related offense, or a person with strong ties to a community that has been disproportionately impacted by both poverty and cannabis drug law enforcement. Such a business must be owned by 51% or more of those who qualify, or for businesses with 10 or more staff, 51% of the workers must qualify.  Social equity applicants qualify for assistance in various ways:Applicants for business licenses that qualify as social equity applicants will receive additional points on applications in the scoring system.A Cannabis Business Development Fund will provide financial resources for business start-ups, which can be used to offset licensing fees or used for low-interest loans. The fund will start with $12 million of funds as soon as possible after July 1, 2019, and additional early fees will be transferred into it. It is anticipated to grow to $30 million.Local colleges can obtain a license for training programs to help residents prepare for cannabis industry-related jobs.The 3R Program (the Restore, Reinvest, and Renew Program) will allow community groups to develop programs to benefit disadvantaged communities.Training: The Department of Agriculture and Community College board will create up to eight pilot programs to train students to work in the legal cannabis industry. At least five of the eight programs must be for schools in which at least 50% of the students are low income.
Home cultivation for patientsBeginning on January 1, 2020, medical cannabis patients may purchase cannabis seeds and grow up to five plants at their residence. There are limitations on home growing, however, including a cap of five plants per household, regardless of the number of residents who are 21 or over, and plants will need to be secured and out of view by the public. Home cultivators can keep what they grow, but possession limits still apply outside the residence, and sales are prohibited unless part of a licensed cannabis business. 

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