top of page

Growing Into Equity: Illinois Lawmakers Launch Working Group to Elevate State's Cannabis Industry

By: Marie Scarci | February 28, 2023

Illinois House Democrats have formed a working group focused on developing the cannabis industry in an equitable way that is beneficial to both businesses and communities. The team will be utilizing their expertise to shape the future of legalization within Illinois, as they strive for success to meet the equity goals set in 2019.

Rep. La Shawn Ford, D-Chicago is at the helm of this group dedicated to advancing cannabis-related legislation and promoting racial equity in Illinois. A vocal proponent for both causes, Rep. Ford has proposed several pieces of reformative bills targeting these issues thus far.

Ford promises to work diligently for the success of those who have put their money into this budding industry and address any longstanding disparities caused by drug laws. He emphasizes his dedication to rectifying cannabis-related arrests that disproportionately affected communities of color.

In 2016, Illinois took a major step toward criminal justice reform when it decriminalized cannabis usage. This decision followed concerning findings by the ACLU that revealed African Americans in the state were disproportionately more likely to be arrested for marijuana-related offenses than their white counterparts, at an alarming 7.5 times higher rate of arrest prior to legalization efforts being implemented.

In 2019 the bill that legalized recreational cannabis use in Illinois also enabled individuals with minor marijuana offenses to have their records cleared. By December 2020, Governor Pritzker Pardoned over 492K cases that had involved cannabis. Oregon's governor pardoned over 45K people with minor cannabis offenses at the end of 2022. Connecticut's program automatically cleared the records of over 42K minor cannabis offenders. Pennsylvania unfortunately can't seem to figure out how to pardon its citizens who are incarcerated for minor cannabis-related crimes.

The recreational cannabis law extends a helping hand to those who are socially disadvantaged in order to help them become legal business owners. Minority communities, people with prior convictions, and those from disproportionately impacted areas now have an easier path toward owning their own dispensary licenses under the new legislation.

With the new General Assembly in January, legislators have filed over 30 bills pertaining to cannabis. With a focus on areas including licensing and tax revenue distribution, as well as expungement of past offenses - it's clear that Illinois is taking bold steps towards the regulation of this emerging industry. In order to effectively tackle these important issues head-on, the working group will be set up with the objective to analyze proposed regulations and tackle the most important issues first.

Illinois recently made history as recreational cannabis sales skyrocketed to a record high of $1.5 billion in the 2022 Fiscal year, and an impressive quarter of a billion dollars have flowed into state coffers through this newfound revenue stream - with some earmarked for communities hit hardest by decades of discriminatory drug laws. under the law, 25% of taxes for adult use cannabis sales should be going to those who were incarcerated for cannabis or in lower-income communities. The money collected from marijuana taxes is working hard to bring justice and regeneration where it's most needed while also contributing more than $115 million towards funding essential services across Illinois' General Revenue Fund.

The Cannabis Business Association of Illinois is pushing to take action on a range of issues, from ensuring that pandemic-era curbside pickup and drive-thru services remain available as restrictions continue to roll back, reforming the state's cannabis tax code in line with federal standards, to providing employment opportunities for those previously criminalized due their involvement with cannabis.

The Cannabis Equity Illinois Coalition has ambitious plans for reforming the cannabis industry in their state also. They are calling on lawmakers to extend more meaningful support to craft growers, unify a sprawling and fractured system of regulations with one key commission, and provide social consumption venues like clubs and lounges where cannabis products can be enjoyed legally. Lawmakers continue to work with the many cannabis groups in the state to better and develop new laws to help business owners become more successful in the industry and add needed regulations to ensure safety for consumers and promote equal business opportunities.

News (2).png
News (4).png
Check back soon
Once posts are published, you’ll see them here.
bottom of page