Illinois is the first U.S. State to offer reparations after legalizing adult-use cannabis

Analysts predict that recreational cannabis revenue in Illinois will top $1.6 billion annually once the market is launched next year

Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

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It might be the 11th U.S. State to legalize cannabis, but Illinois has become the first to offer reparations in its legal cannabis program. On June 25, Governor JB Pritzker signed a bill into law making cannabis a legal and regulated product for adult consumption. 

The Illinois Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act was initially passed by the Illinois General Assembly on May 31. The midwestern state’s cannabis regulations are not dissimilar to those enacted in other states. However, there is one big difference: Illinois’ cannabis rules consider the impacts that cannabis prohibition has had on certain communities.

Pro-cannabis activists in Illinois have long been pushing for lawmakers to include reparations in their regulatory framework for legal weed; something that advocates feel is absolutely imperative for communities worst affected by the failed War on Drugs. Many of the communities impacted are low-income neighborhoods built up primarily of people of color. Thanks to Illinois’ cannabis reparations, residents of these communities are given an equal chance of getting their foot in the door as budding cannapreneurs.

Low interest loans will be made available to those considered under the terms of Illinois’ cannabis reparations. These loans will make it possible for residents to afford the cost of applying for the relevant licenses required to launch and operate cultivation stores and dispensaries. Applications can be submitted before the industry’s official rollout on January 1, 2020.

Funds will be allocated to specific programs designed to aid individuals who are living in less privileged communities. One such example is the “Restore, Reinvest, and Renew” program, otherwise known as the “R3 program.” This program will receive 25 percent of the cannabis tax revenue accumulated by the state.

Moreover, anyone who has previously been caught in possession of less than an ounce of weed in Illinois will benefit from having their records expunged. Governor JB Pritzker will be presented with the evidence of previously-committed pot possession convictions and asked to provide leniency. As many as 800,000 people’s criminal records could be wiped for “minor cannabis crimes.”

Recreational cannabis sales revenue in Illinois could reach $1.6 billion annually

No other state has legalized the sale of recreational cannabis via a state legislature. Vermont legalized the use and possession of cannabis via its Legislature but failed to pass anything regarding the sales of adult-use cannabis. Every other cannabis-friendly state in the nation has conducted a ballot initiative to lift restrictions on the plant’s recreational sale and use. Once Illinois’ industry launches at the start of next year, analysts predict that revenue will top $1.6 billion annually.

Medical cannabis retail sales, on the other hand, commenced in November 2015. A total of 55 medical cannabis dispensaries have pulled in $325 million since this time. As of June 2019, the number of enrolled medical cannabis patients in Illinois surpassed 73,000. Now, with recreational cannabis having been legalized in the state, the consumer demographic is expected to keep climbing.