Gov. J.B. Pritzker defends social equity measures in recreational pot bill, tamps down expectations for Jan. 1 launch

Chicago Tribune Politics 1 week ago

Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Wednesday sought to moderate expectations for the Jan. 1 launch of legal recreational marijuana sales in Illinois while defending social equity measures in the law that members of the Chicago City Council’s Black Caucus said they find lacking.

“Our goal is not to immediately deliver as much access to recreational cannabis as possible as quickly as possible,” Pritzker said while signing a measure that tweaks the landmark legalization bill he signed in June.

Rather, Pritzker said, the overarching aim of the legalization law is “to address the inequities that have wreaked havoc on many of our communities.”

“We want the industry to be diverse,” Pritzker said. “We want black and brown people, we want people who’ve been left out and left behind, to have a real opportunity to not only benefit from this new industry but to create new millionaires in the black community, in the Latino community, all across this state.”

Assurances like those haven’t been enough to convince some members of the City Council’s Black Caucus that minorities will be able to gain a toehold in the marijuana business because of the way the state law is written.

The City Council on Wednesday heard a proposal from 28th Ward Ald. Jason Ervin, chairman of the Black Caucus, that would delay recreational pot sales in the city until July 1. No vote was taken, clearing the way for sales to begin.

Toi Hutchinson, a former Democratic state senator who co-sponsored the legalization bill and is now Pritzker’s top adviser on marijuana policy, took umbrage with the idea that the state isn’t doing enough to create equity in the industry.

“Nothing could be further from the truth,” she said. “Stating it as such is actually a slap in the face to all of the incredible work that happened with both the Black Caucus and the Latino Caucus at the state level.”

The Pritzker administration’s goal is to get the industry up and running while ensuring that existing marijuana businesses, which are predominantly white-owned, don’t monopolize the new market.

In addition to licenses available to existing medical pot companies, the state will award up to 75 new dispensary licenses by May 1, with extra consideration given to so-called social equity applications — those with ties to communities that have been disproportionately affected by the war on drugs. Revenue generated from the existing industry will fund low-interest loans to help those new businesses get off the ground.

The application period for the new licenses begins Tuesday and closes Jan. 2.

So far, the state has licensed 30 of the 55 existing medical marijuana dispensaries for recreational sales beginning on New Year’s Day, though three of those businesses are in towns that have prohibited the sale of recreational pot. The state has yet to award licenses to any of those dispensaries to open up a second shop to sell to recreational customers.

“The growth of this industry is happening in a deliberative, phased way so that we can get to the point where we work through the hiccups in the system that happen early,” Hutchinson said. “We’re not naive enough to think that there won’t be hiccups.”

In short, expect lines on New Year’s Day, she said.

Pam Althoff, a former Republican state senator who now heads the Cannabis Business Association of Illinois, said the industry also is trying to manage consumers’ expectations and is treating Jan. 1 like a “soft opening” of a new restaurant.

The measure Pritzker signed Wednesday that lawmakers approved last month makes modest changes to the legislation he signed in June.

For consumers, it clarifies where they’ll be able to use pot in public. Bars and restaurants won’t be able to allow cannabis consumption, but dispensaries and tobacco shops may, with local government approval.

The measure also significantly cuts back on what would have amounted to a lifetime ban on financial involvement in the cannabis industry for lawmakers who held office or any state officials involved in awarding cannabis licenses prior to June 25, 2021. The ban also would have applied to spouses or immediate family members.

Instead, beginning June 25, 2021, lawmakers and those state officials — along with their spouses or live-in immediate family members — will be prohibited from having an ownership interest in state-regulated marijuana businesses while on the state payroll and for two years after leaving. The prohibition does not apply to passive owners of stock in a publicly traded company.

Any current lawmaker who has an ownership interest has until Dec. 4, 2020, to divest.

A major component of Illinois’ new law is the expungement of past low-level marijuana convictions. The changes Pritzker signed Wednesday include provisions requiring notification for people whose records are automatically expunged and making it easier for legal aid clinics to help people clear their records.

It also will now be legal to possess marijuana-related paraphernalia.

dpetrella@chicagotribune.com


Source link
Read also:
Chicago Tribune › Politics › 1 week ago
In September, Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration made a splash by announcing Toi Hutchinson would oversee the implementation of Illinois’ new recreational cannabis program, laid out in landmark legislation the then-state senator played a key role...
Chicago Tribune › Politics › 2 months ago
Gov. J.B. Pritzker has tapped one of the chief legislative sponsors of Illinois’ recreational marijuana law to oversee the rollout of the new program.
Chicago Tribune › Politics › 1 month ago
Gov. J.B. Pritzker offered a glimpse of his vast wealth on Tuesday when his campaign arm released a summary of tax records showing he and first lady M.K. Pritzker earned more than $6 million in 2018.
CBS Local › 1 week ago
People who attend the meetings will have a chance to ask questions and provide input about the legalization of recreational pot starting on Jan. 1.
Chicago Tribune › Politics › 1 month ago
Gov. J.B. Pritzker endorsed legislation Sunday that would allow college athletes in Illinois to make money from endorsements, but House Republicans convening this week in the fall veto session are likely to oppose it.
Chicago Tribune › Politics › 2 weeks ago
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker vetoed a bill that would have extended a sales tax exemption on private aircraft parts through 2024.
Chicago Tribune › Politics › 2 months ago
Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Wednesday released a five-year plan for the Illinois economy that includes an emphasis on providing better “customer service” to businesses, improving workforce development and strengthening key industries
Chicago Tribune › Politics › 2 months ago
Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Thursday unveiled a plan to merge roughly 650 local pension funds for suburban and downstate police officers and firefighters into two statewide funds, a proposal aimed at narrowing a widening funding gap and easing the property...
Chicago Tribune › 2 months ago
Read the letter from Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration to Tinley Park officials telling them he won’t sell them the state-owned land where a proposed racetrack and casino would have been built.
Chicago Tribune › Politics › 1 month ago
Gov. J.B. Pritzker outlined the state’s transportation project spending blueprint over the next five years on Monday, an approximately $23.5 billion package of roads and bridges planned through 2025.
Sign In

Sign in to follow sources and tags you love, and get personalized stories.

Continue with Google
OR