Illinois is just the 11th state in America to legalize recreational marijuana, but with that comes the challenge of establishing a whole new industry with a whole set of quirks.
Unlike the other states, Illinois set up a statewide marketplace itself, including provisions to help give back to minority communities, which have been disproportionately affected by marijuana prohibition.
Among the policies that will be put into place over the next couple of months, many are looking to see how the state will deal with the problems that will inevitably pop up.
Here’s What Illinois Can expect
On June 25, Illinois Governor J. B. Pritzker fulfilled a campaign promise by signing a bill that would legalize recreational marijuana in the state.
“In the past 50 years, the war on cannabis has destroyed families, filled prisons with nonviolent offenders, and disproportionately disrupted black and brown communities,” Pritzker said to NBC News. “Each year, law enforcement across the nation has spent billions of dollars to enforce the criminalization of cannabis. … Yet its consumption remains widespread.”
The bill also means that upward of 800,000 people with low-level marijuana offenses could have their records expunged, while impoverished communities are expected to be big benefactors of the new law.
Residents are expected to be able to buy from licensed dispensaries by Jan. 1, 2020, where they may own up to 30 grams of raw cannabis, cannabis-infused product or products containing no more than 500 mg of THC and Five grams of cannabis product in concentrated form if you are over the age of 21.
Out of state residents will only be allowed to half that and are responsible for it if they leave the state.
One of the most notable requirements from the bill will the social equity program that will be set up, which will focus on giving back to communities, often primarily with people of color, who have suffered from the War on Drugs.
The social equity program will offer assistance to those in communities affected by the War on Drugs by giving training, financial assistance and preference for dispensary licenses in affected communities.
A considerable portion of the revenue collected from legal marijuana will go toward the 3R Program (the Restore, Reinvest, and Renew), which will allow community groups to develop programs to benefit disadvantaged communities.
How Illinois State Police Are Preparing
As with anything marijuana-related, the challenges that come with cannabis will prove a test for everyone in Illinois.
Police will most likely be the first group to actively have to deal with the side-effects of the marijuana industry, as they will receive pressure from outside states who will start seeing an influx in their marijuana black market (looking at you, Indiana) and will have a new set of challenges in the state.
“Whether it’s misconduct regarding alcohol or cannabis, public safety and the enforcement of the law will always remain our top priorities,” Illinois State Police Director Brendan Kelly said in a news release. “As the law of the state of Illinois changes, the ISP will ensure our officers, forensic scientists, telecommunicators and support staff have the necessary training and tools needed to continue to enforce the laws in place and perform their respective duties.”
While police in the state already receive training on how to dole out sobriety tests and work with people who may be under the influence, Indiana police will receive extra training and add a focus on roadside saliva tests.
The ISP’s Medical Marijuana Unit will begin overseeing recreational regulatory duties and provide guidance to more dispensaries and centers with information.
New Tests And Big Hurdles
Marijuana has a difficult time pretty much anywhere in America.
Even legal states have the fact that its status as an illegal drug by the federal government as a huge factor as to why the marijuana industry is riddled with problems.
One of the major problems that Illinois will run into will be with the banks. Although its money-making capabilities is one of the many pros that are brought up in debate, the reality is that most banks can’t accept the money.
Due to marijuana being illegal at the federal level, banks, which operate under federal rules, are not able to accept marijuana money. This will be a problem down the line as dispensaries will be put into strenuous conditions in order to keep their profits safe and keep their businesses open.
This also means that the cash-only businesses will have to focus on how to safely keep their profits while maintaining practices that will keep them in business.
That information, along with the rest of the state’s rules, will have to be delivered to the residents concisely, as misinformation will be another big hurdle.
Due to each state coming up with its own methods and regulations for legalization, those coming from California or Colorado will have a new set of rules to deal with in Illinois. It’ll be on the government to set up a way for residents to learn and know exactly what is allowed when it comes to cannabis.
A large portion of the problems that will come from legal marijuana will be ones that the government will just have to learn from. With any new industry, no one knows what is going to happen, meaning that all the current talk could be useless in even just a year.
With revenue from taxes and licenses expected to bring half a billion dollars in the first couple of years alone, where all that money goes to will probably be fought over and change within the next couple of years.
As long as lawmakers are open, the challenges that they will likely face will be more learning curves than dealbreakers.