Apr 20, 2017

Legalizing Recreational Marijuana in Illinois

Patrick Ryan

Attitudes toward recreational marijuana use are continuing to evolve, with the idea becoming more and more acceptable to more and more people.  In fact, the push to legalize marijuana on a recreational level continues in Illinois.  On Wednesday, March 22, 2017, two state lawmakers from the City of Chicago’s North Side, Rep. Kelly Cassidy and Sen. Heather Steans, introduced legislation that they are sponsoring (Senate Bill 316 and House Bill 2353) which would legalize the recreational use of marijuana in Illinois.  (The House Bill has since gained seven additional sponsors, and the Senate Bill has gained an additional six sponsors).  This legislation would be known as the Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act.

The goals of the legislation would be to allow law enforcement to “focus on violent and property crimes,” as well as “generating revenue for education and other public purposes, and individual freedom.”  The bill suggests that Cannabis ought to be “regulated in a manner similar to alcohol.”  If that truly is the intent, it will be interesting to see how judges hearing divorce cases will treat it when it comes to parenting issues.

Similar to alcohol, the legislation would allow individuals, 21 years or older, to legally possess, consume, grow, use, process, purchase and transport marijuana, up to certain limits.  For an Illinois resident, that limit would be the possession of up to 28 grams (no more than 5 grams of which may be concentrated) cannabis, 5 cannabis plants and the additional cannabis those plants provide, above the 28 grams, provided it stays in the same place that it is cultivated.  For non-residents of Illinois, that amount would be possession of up to 14 grams (no more than 2 grams of which may be concentrated) cannabis.  (There are 28.3495 grams in an ounce)

Marijuana would obviously be subject to an excise tax of $50 per 28 grams sold at the wholesale level.  Those funds would be dispersed with 50% going to the State’s General Revenue Fund, 30% to the State Board of Education, and 20% to the Department of Public Health, with half of that (10%) going towards alcohol, tobacco and cannabis treatment and prevention programs, and the other half (10%) going for an education campaign about alcohol, tobacco and cannabis use.

If passed, which is still considered a long shot in the near term, Illinois would join eight other states (Colorado, Washington, Alaska, Oregon, California, Massachusetts, Maine and Nevada) to legalize recreational marijuana.  Illinois already has the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act on the books, which allows individuals with a “debilitating medical condition” as defined in the statute, and just this past July, Illinois decriminalized possession of marijuana up to 10 grams.  Obviously, the Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act would greatly expand that.

What, if any, impact this law could have on parenting issues related to allocation of decision making and parenting time by a court, is obviously yet to be seen.  If the intent of the law is to regulate marijuana use “in a manner similar to alcohol use” – will courts eventually view it the same way as they do moderate alcohol use by a parent?  It’s hard to believe they would, given the lack of research and evidence regarding how marijuana use impacts individuals and how to measure the amount in one’s system.1  Either way, this legislation is a long way from potentially being passed and, even if it is, it will likely be several years before it is implemented.  Nevertheless, it should be interesting to watch the development of the law and what, if any effect, it has on how courts view its impact on parental responsibilities.

1 Since Marijuana is still classified by the Federal Government as a Schedule I Drug – which the DEA defines as “a drug with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse” – any clinical research requires a DEA license and FDA approval.  Then, in order to obtain research grade marijuana, you must go through the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which is charged with determining the “harmful effects” of drugs and preventing drug abuse.  As a result, the NIDA will essentially not approve testing to establish marijuana as medicine or other benefits associated with marijuana.  Thus, there is very little clinical research on marijuana and its effects on the human body.

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