Jaclyn Driscoll

When talking about legalizing recreational cannabis in Illinois, the conversation has shifted from “if” to “when.” Still, many residents have questions and concerns about what such a program would mean for the state. Lawmakers pushing for a legalized program held a meeting in Springfield on Monday where they attempted to clear up any confusion and gather feedback from residents. 

Despite the frigid temperatures, the Carnegie Room of the Lincoln Library was standing room only for the town hall meeting. It was a diverse group of advocates, members of the medical cannabis community, the new Director of Agriculture, and just regular people.

State Sen. Heather Steans and Rep. Kelly Cassidy, both Chicago Democrats, are leading the charge for a recreational cannabis program. Before they took questions, they laid out what they are proposing. 

"This will allow Illinois residents ages 21 and over to purchase and possess up to 30 grams of cannabis," said Cassidy. "Non-residents get half that. That's pretty standard across the country."

Cassidy said the provision for out-of-staters to have less would prevent "leakage" - someone from Iowa for example, where recreational marijuana isn't legal, buying a lot in Illinois and bringing it home with them. 

The proposal would also allow municipalities to opt out of the program, which means they could prohibit dispensaries from setting up shop within city limits. They can't restrict residents from privately using the product, though. Localities would also be allowed to add an additional tax. However, the bill would cap how high that tax can be so it does not drive residents back to an illicit market. 

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