On June 25, the governor of Illinois signed a bill legalizing recreational cannabis in the state. In doing so, Illinois became the 11th state to legalize recreational cannabis in the United States, following California, Colorado, Oregon, and others.
While many Illinoisans are celebrating, there are still plenty of questions that need to be answered before January 1, 2020. These questions arise from every sector, from concerned parents to law enforcement to the medical field. Here’s a look at what Illinoisans can expect in the future.
Legal with Limits
The measures passed by the Illinois legislature will allow resident adults to have 30 grams of cannabis flower. In addition, they’ll be able to buy edibles, oils, and other forms of cannabis. Each of these will have their own limits as well.
It will still be illegal for people to have more than this amount. People who don’t live in the state will only be able to possess half the legal amounts for residents. That means someone visiting from another state can buy about 15 grams of dried cannabis flower.
What about Medical Cannabis Patients?
The limits on legal possession for recreation raise some questions for people who use cannabis for medicinal purposes. Some patients require more than a gram per day, which would easily make a month’s prescription exceed the personal possession limits.
The state’s legalization efforts are also considering restrictions on the potency of various forms of cannabis. Again, that could pose problems for medical patients who need access to higher doses or stronger medications.
For now, it seems as though Illinois will continue to have a medical cannabis program. That’s good news for patients, who may need to consult with a doctor knowledgeable in marijuana about medication interactions with cannabis and other health concerns.
The continued existence of the medical program does raise more questions. How will the recreational market affect patients’ ability to access their medication? Will there be new restrictions for the medical program?
Illinois’s medical program has always been considered fairly restrictive, but recently, many medical practitioners and even distributors have warmed to the rules. Lawmakers are already enacting measures to ensure that medical marijuana patients have access to the medicine they need. Laws may even require cultivators and dispensaries to hold product that meets the needs of the medical market.
Taxation and Rising Prices
Another concern is how legalization will affect the pricing of cannabis in Illinois. Medical marijuana patients may find the state’s proposed taxes—up to 34.75 percent on some products—especially troubling.
The tax scheme will push prices higher, which could make some cannabis products unaffordable for some people. However, Lawmakers have said that medical cannabis will be exempt from the taxes on recreational cannabis.
That creates an incentive for people with health concerns to enroll in the medical marijuana program, instead of self-medicating.
Addressing Safety Concerns
Some of the opposition to cannabis legalization has to do with protecting children and youth. Illinois already rolled back a grow-at-home scheme that would have allowed anyone over the age of 21 to grow up to five cannabis plants at home. Some lawmakers felt it sent the wrong message to youth.
Other states have wrestled with similar concerns. In Oregon, for example, there are restrictions on paid advertising. And across the Great Lakes, in Canada, the government placed severe restrictions on marketing opportunities for cannabis companies. Those restrictions are similar to Canadian laws about alcohol and tobacco, which are designed to prevent companies from advertising to children and youth.