The end of cannabis prohibition in Illinois is here, and as of Jan. 1, 2020, it will be legal to possess and use marijuana in the state.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed the Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act into law on Tuesday, making Illinois the 11th state to legalize cannabis, and the first to set a new precedent.

“As the first state in the nation to fully legalize adult-use cannabis through the legislative process, Illinois exemplifies the best of democracy: a bipartisan and deep commitment to better the lives of all of our people,” said Pritzker. “Legalizing adult-use cannabis brings an important and overdue change to our state, and it’s the right thing to do.”

 

What does this mean for Pekin and Tazewell County?

Though cannabis is now legal throughout the state, that doesn’t mean retailers or cannabis businesses will be allowed everywhere.

Pekin City Manager Mark Rothert was noncommittal  in an earlier discussion with the Daily Times regarding the city’s future.

“We have to respect what the policy makers have decided, to legalize marijuana recreationally, but we have to find the balance (for Pekin),” said Rothert.

According to a summary of the bill sent by Pritzker’s office, local ordinances can be put in place that can go as far as to prohibit businesses from operating within the city limits. Additionally, according to the summary, municipalities will be able to create “reasonable” zoning restrictions for cultivation centers, craft growers, processing organizations and dispensaries.

On-site consumption may also be regulated by local governments.

The Illinois Chamber of Commerce was less celebratory in tone than the advocates and lawmakers who fought for the bill, but nonetheless expressed confidence in the final product.

“We believe the bill Gov. Pritzker signed today includes the strongest workplace protections in the nation, and maintains sturdy local control over zoning,” a Tuesday news release stated.

As for medical dispensaries that want to begin recreational sales, those businesses can apply for a license within 60 days of the effective date of the act, and those licenses will be distributed within 14 days if certain conditions are met, according to the release.

Peoria’s Trinity Compassionate Care has said it will expand to recreational services. East Peoria’s NuMed dispensary has not commented on its future as it relates to recreational sales.

Pekin residents, like everyone else in the state, will be allowed to possess and use marijuana beginning Jan. 1, 2020. The law allows possession of up to 30 grams of marijuana, five grams of cannabis concentrate and 500 milligrams of THC contained in cannabis-infused products, like candy.

 

‘Healing process’ begins 

A release from Pritzker’s office describes the legislation as the “most equity-centric” law in the nation, and states the law will create a $30 million loan program, social equity applicant status for licensing and will expunge roughly 700,000 records.

The latter, cannabis advocates say, will begin a healing process for communities affected by the war on drugs.

“Illinois’ historic approach to clemency and expungement will clear up to 770,000 criminal records. Whereas the scarlet letter of a cannabis conviction has destroyed people’s futures, the CRTA provides new business and employment opportunities for those whose lives were derailed by prohibition,” said Steve Hawkins, the executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project — a Washington D.C. based nonprofit dedicated to marijuana policy reform — in a news release.

“Legalization can’t simply end criminal penalties or establish sales — legalization has to be part of the healing process as we recover from the failed war on cannabis,” said Chris Lindsey, senior legislative counsel for the Marijuana Policy Project. “Illinois has taken giant steps toward reducing that harm and resetting the whole system for the better.”

Jerry Nowicki of Capitol News Illinois contributed reporting for this story.