Illinois Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act (What it means for You)

Illinois Governor J. B. Pritzker signed the Cannabis Act (Illinois Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act) into law on June 25, 2019. It went into effect on January 1, 2020, making Illinois the 11th state to legalize the recreational use of marijuana.

The Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act ends cannabis prohibition, replacing it with a plan that regulates and taxes cannabis for individuals 21 years old and older. It also includes protections for employees choosing to use marijuana recreationally.

In addition to making it legal for adults to have and use cannabis, it also changes other regulations regarding medical marijuana and previous marijuana-based offenses.

Learn more about what the Cannabis Act means for you.

Have a question about the Cannabis Regulation & Tax Act in Illinois?

Cannabis Sales and Possession

One ounce marijuana with jar, joints and grinder against black background

Starting on January 1, 2020, individuals in the State of Illinois who are 21 years old or older are legally able to possess and buy cannabis-based products from licensed businesses. Possession limits for Illinois state residents are:

  • Five grams of concentrated cannabis product.
  • Thirty grams of cannabis in raw form.
  • Cannabis-infused products containing 500mg or less of THC.
  • Possession limits for non-Illinois state residents are:
  • Two and a half grams of concentrated cannabis product.
  • Fifteen grams of cannabis in raw form.
  • Cannabis-infused products containing 250mg or less of THC.

Criminal Records

The Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act ushers in one of the largest reforms for criminal justice to date in the marijuana movement, including: 

  • Automatic expungement using the governor's clemency process for individuals convicted of possessing up to 30 grams.
  • The ability for persons convicted of 30-500 grams to petition a court to consider vacating their conviction through the clemency process. 

In total, hundreds of thousands of convicted individuals will be eligible to have their records expunged.

Social Equity Program 

The Cannabis Act also provides direct benefits to those who've suffered the most due to the war on marijuana. In addition to expunging convictions, it also provides bonus points for businesses applying for licenses, additional monetary resources for helping offset startup costs, and programs and resources for communities and neighborhoods hit the hardest from the war on marijuana. 

Eligible social equity applicants are businesses whose staff or owners were directly impacted by the war on marijuana. This includes individuals with arrests or marijuana convictions or individuals with strong connections to a neighborhood disproportionately affected by both marijuana drug law enforcement and poverty.

Owners need to have at least 51% ownership of a business and meet the qualifications or employ at least five employees who qualify. Here are some key points of the social equity program:

  • Qualifying social equity applicants can receive additional application points in the scoring system when applying for business licenses.
  • They may have access to a Cannabis Business Development Fund, which provides monetary resources for startup businesses. These funds can be used for low-interest loans or licensing fees.
  • Local colleges are eligible for licensing for training programs that assist Illinois residents in preparing for cannabis-industry-related careers.
  • The R3 Program (Restore, Reinvest, Renew) allows community organizations to create programs benefiting disadvantaged communities. 

Business Licensing 

There are several different kinds of licenses for cannabis businesses associated with the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act, including: 

  • Dispensary: A dispensary provides adult consumers with marijuana products.
  • Infuser: An infuser infuses products, such as lotions, edibles, and oils, with THC extract.
  • Transporter: A transporter takes marijuana products from one licensed business to another.
  • Craft Grower: Craft growers can grow between 5,000 and 14,000 square feet of canopy space. They can be licensed separately as a dispenser and an infuser at the same facility.
  • Cultivation Center: Cultivation centers are able to grow up to 210,000 square feet of canopy space.

Cannabis in the Workplace

The Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act still allows employers to discipline and terminate employees if they believe they're under the influence of marijuana in the workplace. According to the law, the employer must have a good faith belief that the employee displays certain behavior or acts in a way that impairs their work or other's work. This means an employer's good faith belief needs to be based on someone's physical observation of an employee rather than only test results. 

Training employees and supervisors on how to spots signs of marijuana impairment and establishing easy policies for documenting and reporting these observations places an employer in the best position to legally take action against an employee for being impaired. Most important, though, if an employer disciplines or terminates an employee, the new law states the employee should have a reasonable opportunity to contest or deny the determination.

Employers are still able to maintain a zero-tolerance drug policy and have reasonable drug testing requirements. However, with the passage of the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act, these policies should be revised to prohibiting the use, possession, or impairment of cannabis while working instead of merely a blanketed zero-tolerance prohibition again marijuana use.

Medical Marijuana 

Starting on January 1, 2020, a medical marijuana patient is able to buy marijuana seeds and grow as many as five plants at their home. However, there are some limitations associated with homegrown marijuana:

  • Each household is only allowed five plants regardless of how many residents are over 21 years old. 
  • Marijuana plants must be secured and out of public view.

Home cultivators are able to keep what is grown in the home. However, possession limits do apply outside of their residence. They also are prohibited from selling products unless they are part of a licensed cannabis business.

Revenue Distribution

Once the administration and expungement costs have been covered, the remaining funds generated from the Cannabis Act will be distributed in the following ways:

  • 2% to safety campaigns and public education.
  • 8% to the Local Government Distributive Fund for law enforcement training and prevention.
  • 10% to pay unpaid bills.
  • 20% to substance abuse programs and mental health services.
  • 25% to the R3 program.
  • 35% to the General Revenue Fund.

Navigating this new law can be difficult to do on your own. If you have additional questions about the new Cannabis Act or other business concerns, contact the team at Pasquesi Sheppard.