By Andre Bourque

Then-candidate Pritzker promised it, and Governor Pritzker delivered it--the long-awaited details of the proposed recreational marijuana law for Illinois were released on March 4th, 2019. The plan for full cannabis legalization, which aims to try and prevent big business from sweeping in by setting market caps on ownership, is set to begin on January 1, 2020.

The new law would give relatively standard provisions for marijuana possession of just over an ounce of flower for those 21 years old and over. And, expungement is a key part of the new legislation removing misdemeanor or Class 4 felony cannabis convictions from records, and is expected to benefit over least 800,000 people.

Additionally, a $20 million low-interest loan program will be established to encourage diversity in cannabis business ownership. "Our approach makes Illinois the first state in the nation to place status as a social equity applicant into the core scoring system for applications," Pritzker said.

The cannabis-focused financial and business publication, the Green Market Report, offers this succinct wrap of the proposed legislation.

Illinois, a state with an existing medical marijuana regime in place since November of 2015, is trying to do something no other state has accomplished, legalizing recreational marijuana by statute. Other states take the traditional, reactive approach, and develop a program only after a ballot initiative is passed.

“No state has gone to tax-and-regulate by legislation versus ballot referendum,” State Rep. Kelly Cassidy, co-author of the bill, said. Cassidy and fellow co-author Sen. Heather Steans began writing it than two years ago. “That’s why it’s taken more time than other bigger bills.”

The wait aims to pay off handsomely. A study from the Illinois Economic Policy Institute and the University of Illinois determined that legalizing marijuana would create 24,000 jobs would generate more than $500 million in state tax revenue, infusing nearly $1 billion into the state economy overall by 2020.

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