With the stroke of a pen Tuesday morning, Gov. J.B. Pritzker made good on his campaign promise to fully legalize weed and paved the way for sales of recreational pot to begin on Jan. 1.
So what’s next?
Many of the other states that have legalized recreational marijuana now allow for the drug to be delivered to and grown at users’ homes. State Rep. Kelly Cassidy, a Chicago Democrat who helped write and push through the legalization bill, said she and her colleagues will likely address those potentially contentious issues down the road, likening the process to the way state lawmakers have dealt with another vice that was once banned in the state.
“If you look at every legislative session probably since the end of [alcohol] prohibition, there has been at least one piece of alcohol legislation,” Cassidy said.
An earlier draft of Illinois’ cannabis legalization bill would have allowed recreational users to grow up to five pot plants at home. Facing pushback from opponents who claimed home grown pot could be diverted into the black market, Cassidy and fellow Democrats revised the bill to limit personal cultivation to medical patients, who will be able to grow five plants at the start of next year.
“There was deep concern from law enforcement about being able to control this,” Cassidy said. “Honestly, I don’t know that those were super well-founded concerns, but they were their concerns and so this was the compromise.”
“I think that when the sky doesn’t fall there will be another opportunity to discuss that,” she added.
Of the 10 other states that have legalized marijuana for adult use, Washington is the only one that prohibits recreational users from growing the drug. Nevada, however, allows only recreational users to grow cannabis if they live more than 25 miles from a dispensary, according to Karen O’Keefe, director of state policies at the Marijuana Policy Project.
O’Keefe noted every state allows people to brew their own beer. She thinks the same will eventually be true for cannabis cultivation.
“It’s just a question of how long it will take,” O’Keefe said.
Anyone over the age of 21 can already order up pot products for delivery in California, Nevada and Oregon, according to O’Keefe.
Deliveries of recreational marijuana will also kick off when sales start next year in Michigan, the first state in the midwest to legalize recreational pot, as well as the following year in Colorado, O’Keefe said. Meanwhile, the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission delayed voting last month on regulations related to the delivery and social consumption of weed, according to The Republican.
While home cannabis deliveries came up during Illinois’ last legislative session, Cassidy said she and fellow lawmakers wanted to wait until the initial legalization bill had passed to address those types of sales.
“That opens up a layer of issues that I don’t think we were prepared to address,” said Cassidy, who was deterred by reports of medical marijuana delivery drivers being robbed in Michigan. “That’s something that is likely another bill for another time.”
Dan Linn, executive director of the Illinois chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, echoed some of Cassidy’s safety concerns but also noted that the delivery business would likely be easier to crack into than other aspects of the legal pot industry that require hefty, non-refundable application fees and other barriers to entry.
“I think that you could see a fairly large number of people get awarded those licenses,” Linn said, “I’m not sure how profitable they’ll end up being, so you may see a lot of companies get out of the gate with one of these licenses but then over time they’re just not viable businesses.”