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Public weed consumption will be allowed only at dispensaries and smoke shops, not bars and restaurants

Backtracking on the law they passed last spring, Illinois lawmakers voted Thursday to sharply restrict where people will be able to consume cannabis once it becomes legal in January.

Illinois lawmakers pulled back Thursday on a portion of the law legalizing recreational marijuana that some didn’t realize opened the door to public consumption in bars and restaurants.
Illinois lawmakers pulled back Thursday on a portion of the law legalizing recreational marijuana that some didn’t realize opened the door to public consumption in bars and restaurants.
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Dispensaries and special smoke shops will be the only place people can publicly consume marijuana next year under a change to state law approved by lawmakers Thursday.

After criticism from health advocates, lawmakers moved to curtail provisions in the state’s legalization law — dashing the hopes of some business owners who sought to allow pot use at their restaurants, bars and even beauty shops when adult recreational use becomes legal Jan. 1.

The law signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker in June would have allowed municipalities to regulate pot use at cannabis businesses, though health advocates and even some legislators who helped pass that law said they weren’t aware of that, the Chicago Sun-Times reported in June. It gave an exemption to the Smoke Free Illinois Act to those establishments and other businesses that receive local governments’ approval for on-site consumption.

The new legislation says on-site consumption will be allowed only at dispensaries where marijuana is sold and at licensed smoke shops which — similar to cigar shops — will be granted an exemption to the smoke-free law.

“We’re really pleased that we could be working that way to stand up a very strong legalization program come January,” said state Rep. Heather Steans, D-Chicago, who led the legalization push.

The measure also amends a conflict-of-interest provision that was added after it was reported that state Sen. Patricia Van Pelt, D-Chicago, was leading a company that intends to enter the industry. Starting in June 2021, members of the Illinois General Assembly and their immediate family members will be prohibited from holding an ownership stake in any cannabis firm licensed in Illinois within two years of the legislator leaving office. Any member or family member who has an interest in a weed business will have to divest within a year of the provision’s effective date.

The provision won’t apply to Candace Gingrich — the spouse of state Rep. Kelly Cassidy, another Chicago Democrat who sponsored the legalization law — who in July was named vice president and head of business development for Revolution Florida, a sister company to the Illinois cannabis firm Revolution Enterprises.

“Candace is an employee with no involvement in Illinois business and no ownership,” Cassidy said.

State employees who regulate the industry and their immediate family members also will be barred from holding an ownership interest in any cannabis license within two years of being employed by the state.

The new law also moves up the start date for municipalities to begin collecting sales taxes on recreational pot sales. That means Chicago and other cities can start those collections in July, instead of September.

Last month, Mayor Lori Lightfoot estimated the city would take in $3.5 million in the final four months of 2020. The proposal estimated that a local 3% excise tax would bring in $1 million, with increased sales-tax revenue accounting for the rest.

The Sun-Times’ June 30, 2019, report found that health advocates and even legislators who voted to pass a law legalizing recreational marijuana in Illinois didn’t realize they also opened the door to allowing weed cafes.
The Sun-Times’ June 30, 2019, report found that health advocates and even legislators who voted to pass a law legalizing recreational marijuana in Illinois didn’t realize they also opened the door to allowing weed cafes.