Illinois is the most recent state to legalize cannabis for adult-use and the first in the nation to have legalized a regulated cannabis industry via legislative action. Every state that currently has an operating legal adult-use cannabis industry legalized via the citizen initiative process, not through the legislature.
State lawmakers in Vermont had legalized cannabis for adult-use before Illinois, however, the Vermont legalization measure did not include provisions for a regulated cannabis industry. Illinois is literally doing something that no other state has ever done before, and cannabis policy wonks and industry members have been keeping a close eye on how things are going for obvious reasons.
The state of Illinois passed a significant milestone this week when it awarded its first round of adult-use cannabis industry licenses. Per The Chicago Tribune:
Illinois awarded its first licenses to sell recreational marijuana to five medical dispensaries on Thursday, even as many municipalities around the state debate whether they’ll allow pot sales.
The five shops that received licenses are peppered throughout Illinois — in Naperville, Mundelein, Joliet, Effingham and Canton — and now have the state’s permission to sell marijuana to anyone over age 21, starting Jan. 1.
Not every state has a citizen initiative process in which citizens can gather a required number of valid signatures from voters and put a cannabis industry legalization measure on election ballots. Because of that, many state legislatures will have to get on board with the idea of supporting a regulated adult-use cannabis industry if the industry is going to spread to certain markets in the U.S.
If things work in Illinois, state legislatures in non-initiative states will be much more likely to support a similar measure in their own jurisdiction. Illinois’ legalization model is not perfect for various reasons, not the least of which is a continued prohibition of home cultivation, but it’s still a step in the right direction.
Hopefully, Illinois will improve its model in the near future and become a truly great example that other states can mimic.
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