Rockford's Independent Newspaper

Bill sponsor answers questions about legal marijuana

By Greg Bishop
Illinois News Network

SPRINGFIELD — The chief sponsor of a Senate bill to tax and regulate adult use of recreational cannabis is answering some of the concerns raised by critics.

Some observers speculated that an amendment to Senate Bill 7 would be filed this week, finally revealing how exactly the state might go about making recreational cannabis legal for adult use. With the end of the session set for May 31, such an amendment has yet to be filed.

State Rep. Mary Flowers, D-Chicago, said she has concerns for her community.

“I don’t see where the community is going to benefit and quite frankly I don’t see where the state is going to benefit,” Flowers said.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s budget proposal relies on $170 million from recreational cannabis licensing fees.

Flowers said she’s worried about the possible social costs.

State Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago, said Flowers’ concerns are legitimate. However, she said legalization isn’t an endorsement.

“What it does do is say ‘we know that people are getting a safe product and you know that they’re now going to card people or to make sure that they’re not under 21 [years old], so you’re really limiting it,” Steans said.

Pritzker said he wants to ensure that the industry is open to communities that have been hardest hit by the war on drugs.

“One of my No. 1 focus areas for this has been equity and making sure that we’re addressing the fact that the war on drugs’ most ill-affected communities of color, we want to make sure that this bill addresses the historical discrimination that’s existed and also give people a new opportunity to create new businesses,” Pritzker said Monday.

Flowers said she doubted minorities would be able to secure a spot in the industry. She also said she doubted the black community would benefit at all.

“Their lives have not been made better, nor have their families lives been made better,” Flowers said. “We haven’t even had that discussion.”

Steans said there will be new license categories with cheaper licenses and certain funding mechanisms “to help social equity applicants get both reduced application fees, but also to help get grants and loans to help to start up … and then we want to do expungement to help people expunge records that relate to cannabis.”

Lawmakers are finding common ground on all of these issues and other with stakeholders, Steans said. However, the issue of whether to allow recreational marijuana to be grown in homes remains a point of contention.

“Generally speaking, home grow is important,” Steans said. “It’s going to be very expensive. We want people to have access at lower amounts, so we’re going to see if we can make home grow work at a very limited fashion.”

Pritzker has said he supports limited home cultivation.

The law enforcement community has been opposed to any home-grow provision. Some ideas proposed include only allowing home grow for medical cannabis patients.

Lawmakers are back to session Tuesday.


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