What's up next for legal weed in Illinois

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Updated 1/18/2020 9:22 PM

Now that sales of recreational marijuana have begun in Illinois, here is a look at what's ahead as far as cannabis business licensing, taxation and local decisions about recreational sales:

Licensing

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

• Thirty-six licensed medical marijuana dispensaries across the state also are selling recreational marijuana to adults 21 and older, including in Mundelein, North Aurora and Addison. A total of 48 dispensaries have been licensed to sell recreational pot, but not all are doing so, in part because local zoning codes don't allow it in places such as Naperville and Arlington Heights.

• The Department of Financial and Professional Regulation will award up to 75 licenses by May 1 for new recreational marijuana dispensaries across the state, 47 of them in the greater Chicago area. (Up to 110 more licenses will be awarded by Dec. 21, 2021.)

• The Department of Agriculture will award up to 40 licenses by July 1 for marijuana craft growers, up to 40 licenses for marijuana infusers and an unlimited number of licenses for marijuana transporting organizations. (Up to 60 more licenses each for craft growers and infusers, and more for transporting organizations, will be awarded by Dec. 21, 2021.)

• A DUI cannabis task force -- led by the state police director or his or her designee -- will present its report and recommendations on improvements to enforcement of driving under the influence of cannabis to the governor and the General Assembly by July 1.

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• Up to eight community colleges will be awarded a license for a cannabis vocational pilot program by Sept. 1. The colleges can start programs in the 2021-22 academic year for students who are at least 18. The students will receive a "career in cannabis" certificate.

Taxation

• Dispensaries on Jan. 1 began charging the following taxes: The regular 6.25% state sales tax and regular local sales taxes, plus new cannabis taxes based on potency with cannabis with THC at or below 35% taxed at 10%, cannabis with THC level above 35% taxed at 25%, and all cannabis-infused products taxed at 20%.

• Dispensaries must make their initial payments of taxes collected in January to the Department of Revenue by Feb. 20. The previous month's cannabis tax returns, along with any payment owed, then will be due monthly on the 20th day.

• Under the law, 35% of marijuana tax revenues will go to the state's general fund; 25% will go to the "restore, reinvest and renew," or R3, program, an effort to reinvest in communities most affected by the criminalization of marijuana; 20% will go to address substance abuse and mental health; 10% will go to pay the state's bills; 8% will be distributed among local governments to support law enforcement; and 2% will go to fund a public education campaign and data analysis about the effects of legalization.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

• The Department of Revenue anticipates the first transfer of the 8% to local governments will occur in March. After that, transfers will occur monthly.

• The first transfer of the 25% to the R3 program also is expected to occur in March. Areas are eligible to apply for grants through the program based on census data about gun injury, child poverty, unemployment and state prison commitments and returns. In the suburbs, these areas include parts of Aurora, Elgin, Carpentersville, Streamwood, Hanover Park, Wheaton, Waukegan, Zion, North Chicago and Joliet. Officials do not yet know when the first grants will be distributed.

• Distribution of regular local sales taxes from cannabis purchases will begin in April and will occur monthly.

• Local cannabis sales taxes imposed by municipalities and counties will be charged beginning July 1, if the municipality or county adopts an ordinance and files it with the Department of Revenue by April 1. If a municipality or county establishes a tax by ordinance between April 2 and Oct. 1, the tax will be charged beginning Jan. 1, 2021.

• Distribution of new cannabis sales taxes collected starting July 1 will begin in October and will occur monthly.

Decisions

• Naperville voters can weigh in on March 17 about whether to allow recreational marijuana sales within city boundaries. The referendum question is nonbinding, but several city council members have indicated they will follow the will of voters. The city so far has banned recreational sales.

• Moratoriums on recreational sales are set to expire May 31 in Hawthorn Woods, June 30 in Rosemont and Oct. 26 in Glen Ellyn.

• Voters in Batavia can decide in a binding referendum Nov. 3 if they want to allow recreational sales within city limits.

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