Action has been heating up in Illinois recently regarding cannabis regulation that culminated in legislative hearings this week centered on the prospect of potential legalization of recreational cannabis use in the state. On Wednesday, a joint House and Senate Appropriations Committee met to take testimony from Barbara Brohl who is the Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Revenue. The hearing was in response to recent legislative initiatives that have been introduced in both chambers of the Illinois General Assembly to authorize the regulation and taxation of cannabis for recreational use. Brohl provided information and took questions from committee members regarding Colorado's experience with recreational use sales. Among the highlights of her testimony were specifics regarding the Colorado regulatory and tax structure for recreational use cannabis as well as what she perceived as her state's successes and struggles with implementation of this process. Significant debate was had between Brohl and committee legislators regarding the state's tax structure and the resulting revenues generated for various Colorado state services. This discussion played out against the backdrop of Illinois' ongoing state budget crisis and lawmaker's continued efforts to find additional revenue streams. Another focus of the debate centered on the ongoing cannabis banking conundrum that has caused significant difficulty for cannabis businesses and their customers from utilizing traditional banking services across the country. Further committee debate focused on legislator's concerns with reports of increased emergency room visits in Colorado and other recreational use states as well as concerns with DUI enforcement and restrictions on access to minors. Rounding out the testimony provided to the committee this week was a representative of the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) who gave a national update on which states have authorized recreational use of cannabis and their preliminary findings. One particularly interesting note from this testimony was that all states that now allow recreational use have done so via ballot initiative and not through direct legislative authorization. Most Illinois cannabis observers agree that direct legislative authorization will be necessary here due to the state's notoriously difficult ballot initiative process.
While sponsors of the pending Illinois legislation aimed at authorizing recreational cannabis use have conceded passage of legislation is unlikely this spring, they announced to the committee this week that more in-depth hearings are to follow in the coming weeks and months with an ultimate goal of calling legislation for a vote at a later date.
A link to both the language of the pending bills mentioned above are linked below. They are identical and pending in both the Illinois House and Senate at this time.