FILE - Medical marijuana

Medical marijuana

Gov. J.B. Pritzker is expected to sign a measure to legalize recreational cannabis use and sales for adults and one of the state's medical marijuana companies is preparing for exponential growth.

The governor could sign the measure as early as Tuesday.

That would start a process of various state agencies to create rules and regulations to implement the program for a target date of the first retail sales being Jan. 1. Recreational cannabis would be taxed at a rate of up to 41 percent, depending on the potency of the product. The higher the THC content, the higher the taxes. The revenue would be split among various funds, including money for law enforcement, state debt, the general fund, and for grants to nonprofit community organizations in areas disproportionately affected by the War on Drugs.

Medical cannabis would still be taxed at a much lower rate of 2 percent, similar to how over-the-counter medications are taxed.

Once the recreational pot law is signed, new licenses for dispensaries, cultivators, processors and transporters would be available. One provision would give more weight to applicants from areas affected by the drug war. Those eligible applicants would also have access to a taxpayer-funded revolving loan program.

But, before those new licenses are made available, companies already in the medical cannabis pilot program will be able to start expanding operations to prepare for the first sales next year.

Revolution Enterprises has a cultivation site and a dispensary. Executive Vice President of Operations Eric Diekhoff said the company's cultivation site in Delavan plans to add more than 200 jobs.

“The Delavan location, we have about 67 employees currently here at the Delavan site,” Diekoff said. “That could be potentially up to 300 hopefully over the next couple of years.”

He also said the company's dispensary plans to hire to meet the increased demand.

Diekhoff said the company has been getting by under the pilot medical program, but things have been tight.

“We went through a lot of holding back and burning through capital just to be able to survive for the first several years here,” he said.

More jobs would be created with additional licenses for growers and dispensaries. While there will be a set number of new licenses opened up, the state could issue more after a demand study the bill requires is completed.

California-based Autumn Brands Executive Autumn Shelton had some advice as the state moves forward, and that’s to get regulations in place and not change them from day to day.

“A regulatory program really needs to be set and understand how all the different kinds of cannabis businesses need to operate,” Shelton said.

One unresolved issue is how cannabis operations will handle money. Some businesses have banking relationships, but it’s largely an unbanked, cash-only industry.

Employee drug testing also remains an issue. Chris Lindsey with the Marijuana Policy Project said while the bill allows employers to have zero-tolerance drug policies, that could snag people who used cannabis weeks ago because THC can remain in the body for weeks after use.

“There’s a part of me here that thinks we still need to figure that piece out and I don’t know that we quite have the solution just yet,” Lindsey said.

Staff Reporter

Greg Bishop reports on Illinois government and other statewide issues for The Center Square. Bishop has years of award-winning broadcast experience, and previously hosted “Bishop On Air,” a morning-drive current events talk show.