Due to the lack of federal regulation, the push for legalization has been difficult; in an attempt to enact change, Illinois passed the Cannabis Control Act of 1937, which would have legalized cannabis for medical use. However, this never came to fruition because the Department of Human Services and the Illinois State Police failed to create regulations. This means cannabis was still illegal and could not be used for medical purposes (The Civic Federation, 2021).
In 2013 the state of Illinois passed the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act and was on the path to progress. The legislature stated that cannabis could be utilized for several medical conditions, but this by no means made it easier to obtain. The Act required a background check, a state-issued ID, and a prescription from a doctor who had an existing relationship with that individual (The Civic Federation, 2021). A substantial amount of change has been made in the Illinois cannabis industry regarding state regulation. In 2016 legislation titled SB2228 (Hartman, 2022) was passed decriminalizing cannabis up to 10 grams or less, making it an infraction rather than starting a criminal record (Hartman, 2022). Between 2018 and 2019, medicinal cannabis became easier to obtain, especially for those diagnosed with chronic pain, migraines, and arthritis (The Civic Federation, 2021).
At the risk of stating the obvious, decriminalizing cannabis nationwide has proved difficult. However, Illinois is one of the twenty-seven states, in addition to the District of Columbia, that has to some extent, decriminalized cannabis (Hartman, 2022). Legislation SB2228, or The Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act, made medicinal cannabis easier to access and increased the likelihood of being granted clemency or a pardon (Hartman, 2022). In terms of the law, clemency means sentences may be reduced (Death Penalty Information Center, n.d.), and if pardoned, any consequences may be relieved (PA Board of Pardons, n.d.). This is why President Joe Biden’s mass pardon, which “clears everyone convicted on federal charges of simple (cannabis) possession since it became a crime in the 1970s” (Shear and Kanno-Youngs, 2022), is such a big deal.
After the passing of the successful Illinois state legislature, the state industry has been experiencing a significant boom from 2019 to the present. Illinois governor J.B. Pritzker signed House Bill 1443 into law in July 2021. This bill rapidly expanded the cannabis retail business due to the start of two new lotteries in addition to an already existing lottery allowing three hundred dispensaries and 110 cannabis shops. The lottery will award 55 licenses to those who receive at least 85 percent of the maximum score (Meadows, 2021). Following the state’s recent success last year, the Illinois Department of Agriculture issued craft cannabis growers their first round of licenses (Schiller, 2022). Craft cannabis comes from smaller run farms utilizing healthy cultivation methods for the consumers and the environment, positively affecting the quality of flavors, aromas, and genetics (Jordan, 2021).
Illinois seems to be at the precipice and forefront of change in the cannabis industry, and Governor J.B. Pritzker works tirelessly to ensure progress is being made. In early June, legislation revising the Criminal Identification Act of Illinois was signed into law. The revised law now states that courts “Cannot deny a petition for expungement or sealing because the petitioner has submitted a drug test taken within 30 days before the filing of the petition for expungement or sealing that indicates a positive test for the presence of cannabis within the petitioner’s body” (Jaeger, 2022).
According to Senator Jacqueline Collins, those who test positive for a test will not be penalized for recreationally consuming cannabis, making it harder for jobs to release applicants simply because their drug test returned positive for cannabis. The hope is that this legislation will give second chances to many people, especially minorities throughout Chicago and Illinois. The new law will be in place starting in January 2023 (Jaeger, 2022).
Cannabis in Illinois is undoubtedly here to stay and should set a precedent for other states to follow. Its liberal stance on the state legalization and cultivation of cannabis is backed by its boom in commerce. March and April of this year saw a significant increase in the adult retail sales of cannabis, peaking at 131.8 million in April (Lange, 2022). May saw a slight dip at 129.8 million. However, medicinal cannabis sales are not included in these numbers as they are reported separately (Lange, 2022). The success of Illinois compared to other states depends on many factors, politically and economically. Of course, due to the lack of federal regulation, only time will tell if the success of the Illinois cannabis industry will be reflected across the country.
Steep Hill Illinois is proud to be a part of the state’s ever-changing, progressive mentality regarding the recreational and medicinal use of cannabis. Rely on us for your testing and research needs while receiving outstanding customer service in the process.
Cannabis Overview. National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). (May 31, 2022). Retrieved June 5, 2022, from https://www.ncsl.org/research/civil-and-criminal-justice/marijuana-overview.aspx
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Clemency. The Death Penalty Information Center. (n.d.). Retrieved June 5, 2022, from https://deathpenaltyinfo.org/facts-and-research/clemency
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