History of Cannabis in Illinois

History of Cannabis in Illinois

How Illinois became Chillinois

Illinois has come out of the shadows recently with Cannabis legislation. Cannabis in Illinois has long been criminalized and as a result, stigmatized. In 1931, 6 years before a national law had passed, the Illinois General Assembly voted to make cannabis illegal in Illinois. Roughly 50 years later, Illinois lawmakers put forth the Cannabis Control Act (1978), which technically allowed for medical cannabis.

Unfortunately, recommendations for medical cannabis never saw the light of day until the year of 2013, when the Illinois General Assembly passed the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act (MCPP). The MCPP took effect on January 1st and allowed for the use of medical cannabis in tightly controlled circumstances. Illinois was often revered as the nation strictest medical cannabis program, as the law limited eligibility for the program to 30 serious debilitating conditions.

As of April of 2020, the Medical Cannabis Program had approved applications of over 100,000 patients (including 579 persons under 18 years of age). At the launch of recreational cannabis, there were about 57 licensed cannabis dispensaries in the state of Illinois. In 2016, Illinois reduced the penalty for possession of under 10 grams of cannabis from what once was a misdemeanor to a fine of $100-$200. The law also set the requirement for DWI at 5 nanograms/ml THC in the blood when Governor Rauner approved SB2228 on July 29, 2016.

On March 22nd, 2017, lawmakers in Illinois began proposing bills to legalize recreation cannabis in the state. The initial measure, which was quickly amended, allowed all residents to grow. Following the election of pro-legalization governor, lawmakers were certain that cannabis would be legalized. In August of 2018, the Illinois’ Medical Cannabis Program saw it’s first major change since the start of the pilot program.

The Opioid Alternative Pilot Program (OAPP) began; which made it so that medical patients with an opioid prescription are able to try cannabis as an alternative. The legislation also eased the application progress so that applications no longer has to be fingerprinted or put through a criminal background check. Early estimates predicated that the much-needed expansion of the program could bring in 365,000 new patients which could generate an additional $425 million in revenue for the state.

On August 12, 2019, Governor JB Pritzker made it so that the Medical Cannabis Program was made permanent; as such, they official dropped the ‘Pilot Program’ verbiage from the program name. Secondly, the new law added 11 conditions to the existing program

On May 31st, the Illinois General Assembly made history when they passed the Illinois Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act, which effectively legalized cannabis for recreational use on January 1st, 2020. This was the first time in history that a state legislature created a regulated cannabis system.

As a result of this legislation, Cannabis is now legal in the state of Illinois for recreational and medicinal purposes. Furthermore, an estimated 700,000 Illinoisans should qualify for expungement of past cannabis-related convictions. The state expects to cooperate with the Illinois State Police to complete the expungement process by 2025.

Roughly 77,000 people spent $3.2 million dollars on cannabis on day one of recreational sales. By the end of the week, dispensaries had processed nearly 272,000 transactions which totaled over $10.8 million dollars in sales for the entire state. Despite high demand and low supply, total sales for the month of January 2020 came out to $40 million dollars.


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