Lawmakers are considering a number of changes to the state recreational cannabis law, some said the changes are minor, while others said they would be substantive and require further study.

Lawmakers passed adult-use recreational cannabis legislation in the Spring session. Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed the bill. Legal sales are set to begin Jan. 1.

But Senior Advisor to the Governor on Cannabis Control Toi Hutchinson said an amendment to Senate Bill 1557 in the House brings forward a number of changes.

“And it’s a lot of technical drafting errors with ‘As’ and ‘ands’ and commas and ‘the's’ and things like that – that really are not sexy,” Hutchinson said. “So this really is narrow and technical and specific to having as smooth of a rollout by Jan. 1 as we possibly can.”

State Rep. Terri Bryant, R-Murphysboro, said the clarifying language specified that under the law if a cannabis conviction was connected to an arrest for a violent offense that didn’t have a conviction, both records would still be maintained for possible expungement review.

“That is not a technical change,” Bryant said. 

Hutchinson explained another aspect of the coming bill.

“We’ve added cannabis to the Lawful Products Act and so to the extent as far as the policy of the state is concerned that anyone who is consuming or using cannabis is not considered to be addicted to a drug,” she said.

Without debating whether cannabis should be legal or not at the federal level, Todd Vandermyde, executive director of Federal Firearms Licensees of Illinois, worried that the change would give cannabis users who also want to buy a gun false hope.

“What’s ironic about this is we spent a good chunk of the last session arguing about their Fix The [Firearm Owner Identification] bill where they demand fingerprints of lawful gun owners, yet here the state is turning a blind eye on the largest population of prohibited persons that they just created [with the legalization of recreational cannabis],” Vandermyde said.

Vandermyde said lying on a federal gun purchase form, which asks about the use of cannabis – which is still illegal under federal law – is federal felony subject to $250,000 in fines and five years in prison.

“It’s no different than being a straw purchaser or a convicted felon lying about your record, so it comes with some serious penalties,” Vandermyde said.

Hutchinson said the change would not supersede federal law. It also does not allow the state to look the other way on cannabis use by people who use programs funded with federal dollars.

The measure is up for a House vote and then would need to be concurred by the Senate before the end of the week to take effect before legal recreational marijuana sales begin on Jan. 1.

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.