Last Friday marked the deadline in the Illinois General Assembly for the introduction of new House bills for the current legislative session, so now seems like an appropriate time to survey current marijuana-related bills in Illinois.
First we should mention that there is no proposal to legalize marijuana for recreational use. However HB2750 would require the state to study of the implications of taxing and regulating marijuana like alcohol prior to enacting any recreational use laws. Right now the closest thing to legalization is SB753, which guts the Illinois Cannabis Control Act, legalizing possession of up to 30 grams of marijuana for those over 21. Under SB753, adults would also be able to possess up to 5 cannabis sativa plants. Importantly, SB753 only decriminalizes possession and does not create a retail marijuana regime. Its counterpart in the House, HB218, would amend the Cannabis Control Act to decriminalize possession of up to 30 grams and make it a ticketable petty offense. (Chicago did this a while back, with uneven results and enforcement.) HB218 would further restructure the criminal penalties for marijuana possession, downgrading possession of 30 to 500 grams of cannabis from a class 4 felony to a class A misdemeanor for the first offense.
One measure that would serve to increase marijuana penalties is HB3632, which amends the Cannabis Control Act to criminalize the manufacture of hash oil. It isn’t clear whether this bill applies to licensed medical cannabis cultivation centers or dispensaries. As we’ve noted here, hash oil production can be extremely dangerous, and we suspect the steep punishment is intended to deter people from making it on their own.
Positive developments include HB3299, which would extend the expiration of Illinois’ medical cannabis pilot program from January 1, 2018 to a date four years from the registration of the first cannabis dispensary (expected this summer). It would also extend the expiration date of patient cards to account for the time it has taken to get the program up and running. SB33 would allow patients with PTSD to access medical cannabis products.
Of course a few anti-marijuana bills have popped up as well. HB249 would require that dispensaries be located 1,500 feet from schools and daycare facilities, overriding the previous 1,000 foot restriction. In many Chicagoland municipalities there were only a handful of locations that met the 1,000 foot restriction, so this would effectively prevent any new licenses from being issued in the region.
The $64,000 question is whether any of these pieces of proposed legislation will make it to Governor Rauner’s desk, and which of them he might entertain. We will be watching.