FILE - Gov. J.B. Pritzker, June 2019

Gov. J. B. Pritzker takes in the applause before signing a bill in June.

Illinois lawmakers will send Gov. J.B. Pritzker a bill with the first round of changes to the nation’s first lawmaker-originated measure to legalize recreational cannabis.

The new bill, amended twice, passed in both the House and the Senate on Thursday. It includes a number of fixes, including changing when cities and counties can begin collecting cannabis sales tax from September 2020 to July 2020, allowing employers’ the ability to maintain drug-free workplaces, clarifies that cannabis paraphernalia is legal, outlaws operating watercraft and snowmobiles under the influence of cannabis, and a two-year cooling-off period for lawmakers and members of their families before holding any ownership in a cannabis company. That change would take effect in the next General Assembly. 

Lawmakers, and their immediate family, that voted for the recreational cannabis legislation have a lifetime ban on stakeholder ownership of any company registered to grow or sell it in Illinois.

“The bill that we’re voting on today doesn’t reaffirm or say that you believe in the legalization of cannabis,” said state Rep. David Welter, R-Morris. “We’re here because we have to make technical changes.” 

Counties and cities that voted to tax recreational cannabis will be able to begin collecting sales tax on local cannabis sales on July 1, not Sept. 1.

Like some other laws like liquor regulation, the cannabis law forbade Illinois’ Joint Committee on Administrative Rulemaking from making small administrative changes as the committee would on many other issues, so lawmakers must take on the task of making even small changes via the formal statute amendment process.

Opponents of cannabis legalization said that the changes would bring more clarity to the law, including in terms of law enforcement. 

“I don’t think we want our law enforcement individuals to be found to have it in their system or additionally corrections employees to have that in their system,” said state Rep. Terri Bryant, R-Murphysboro.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced his support for the bill shortly after it completed its legislative journey through the General Assembly. 

“As Illinois prepares to launch legal adult-use cannabis, this legislation will strengthen the most equity- cannabis law in the nation, especially with stronger provisions to prevent conflicts of interest among elected officials and provide more information to people whose records will be expunged,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker said. “Illinois has done more to put justice and equity at the forefront than any other state in the nation, and we’re ensuring that communities that have been hurt by the war on drugs have the opportunity to participate.”

Recreational cannabis use and retail sales become legal under Illinois law on Jan. 1, but will remain a federally-banned narcotic.

Staff Reporter

Cole Lauterbach reports on Illinois government and statewide issues for The Center Square. He has produced radio shows for stations in Bloomington/Normal and Peoria, and created award-winning programs for Comcast SportsNet Chicago.