State's municipalities seek clarifications on recreational marijuana legalization

  • Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks before signing a bill legalizing adult use of recreational marijuana in Illinois during a ceremony earlier this year in Chicago.

    Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks before signing a bill legalizing adult use of recreational marijuana in Illinois during a ceremony earlier this year in Chicago. BlueRoomStream

 
By REBECCA ANZEL
Capitol News Illinois
ranzel@capitolnewsillinois.com
Updated 8/10/2019 7:32 PM

SPRINGFIELD -- The state organization representing local units of government is asking leaders in the General Assembly to make clarifying changes to the recreational marijuana law before it takes effect Jan. 1.

Brad Cole, executive director of the Illinois Municipal League, said the 1,298 cities, villages and towns in the state need guidance on four aspects of the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act, signed into law by Gov. J.B. Pritzker, a Chicago Democrat, in late June.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

There is confusion, he said, about how law enforcers will know a person who is growing cannabis in their home is doing so legally as a prescribed medical marijuana user. Municipalities also are uncertain how they may regulate the drug.

Cole is asking legislators to write what is known as a trailer bill, a companion measure that clarifies a statute. The idea has bipartisan support.

State Sen. Heather Steans, a Chicago Democrat who is one of the statute's framers and her chamber's sponsor, said a trailer bill is likely.

Republican Sen. Jason Barickman, from Bloomington, said his colleagues spent "a lot of time on the legislative language," and any subsequent bill should be consistent with the goals of the original negotiations.

In a letter to lawmakers, Cole highlighted four points the league's members would like the General Assembly to address. "These are common sense issues" to determine what is legal and what is not, Cole said.

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The new law allows those who have a medical marijuana card to grow no more than five plants in their home without needing to be a licensed cultivation center or craft grower. The League's concern, Cole wrote in his letter, is the lack of "registration or notification requirements to municipalities or their police departments" about which residences can legally grow cannabis plants.

"We're saying, we need to know," he said. "How do we know if these are five legal plants or five illegal plants?"

Steans said some interest groups expressed concern a registry might be a civil rights violation. She added local governing bodies would know if the plants were legal by asking whether their owner had a medical marijuana card.

Barickman said the issue is one with "wildly different" viewpoints.

"I think you're going to have those in law enforcement presumably asking for some type of registry, and I think you're going to have others adverse to that," he said.

Also in question is a provision in the law dictating how governing bodies can regulate recreational marijuana.

"No unit of local government ... may prohibit home cultivation or unreasonably prohibit use of cannabis authorized by this Act," according to the law.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Cole, in his letter, wrote that "unreasonably" is not defined, so towns and municipalities might be exposed to "unknown litigation as they attempt to protect the health, safety and well-being of their citizens." The League is asking the General Assembly to clarify the word's meaning.

And it is seeking guidance on two regulations dictating how funds are distributed and may be spent by local governments. Money directed into one account, for example, now has rules for how it may be spent.

"This is restricted money being put into an unrestricted disbursement fund," thus creating accounting confusion for local officials, Cole said.

Department of Revenue Director David Harris was copied on the Municipal League letter. In an emailed statement, a spokesman said the department "is working to ensure successful implementation and rollout of the Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act and works with all stakeholders to that end."

In an emailed statement, Jordan Abudayyeh, Pritzker's press secretary, said, "The Pritzker administration stands ready and willing to continue working to ensure Illinois has a cannabis industry that other states can look to as a model for equity and success."

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