A bill introduced in Illinois last month would authorize marijuana to be taxed and regulated similar to alcohol, legalizing the plant, and effectively thwarting the federal prohibition on the same.
House Bill 4276 (HB4276) was introduced on Aug. 25 by Rep. Kenneth Dunkin (D-Chicago). If this bill is successful, Illinois would become the first state to legalize marijuana (or cannabis as it is referred to in the legislation) for recreational purposes through the legislature rather than the popular vote.
Under HB4276, an Illinois resident would be able to engage in the following behaviors legally under state law:
"(1) possessing, consuming, using, displaying, purchasing, or transporting cannabis accessories;
(2) possessing, growing, processing, or transporting no more than 8 cannabis plants and possession of the cannabis produced by the plants on the premises where the plants were grown;
(3) transferring 30 grams or less of cannabis or up to 6 immature cannabis plants to a person who is 21 years of age or older without remuneration;
(4) assisting another person who is 21 years of age or older in any of the acts described in paragraphs (1) through (3) of this Section."
However, limited prohibitions relating to cultivation still remain under HB4276. The growing of cannabis “may only occur on property lawfully in possession of the cultivator or with the consent of the person in lawful possession of the property.” Individuals who disobey this ban may face fines up to $750. The current Illinois medical marijuana program would not be changed in any way, shape or form because of the legislation.
Marijuana retail operations would be regulated by the state and required to pay an “excise tax at the rate of 10%” to lawfully operate. Localities may opt to ban “the operation of cannabis cultivation facilities, cannabis product manufacturing facilities, cannabis testing facilities, or retail cannabis stores” but cannot prohibit possession of the substance. Asset forfeiture related to compliant cannabis operations is explicitly banned under the bill as well.
The best thing about measures such as HB4276 is that they are completely lawful, and there is little if anything the feds can do to stop them in practice.
Congress and the president claim the authority to ban marijuana. The Supreme Court concurs. However, nearly two-dozen states have taken steps to put the well-being of their citizens first by legalizing marijuana to varying degrees anyway without federal permission.
“The feds can claim the authority to prohibit pot all they want, but it clearly has done nothing to deter states from moving forward with plans to allow it, pushed by the will of the people,” legal analyst Michael Boldin said.
HB4276 won’t be heard in the Senate Rules Committee until at least January when the legislature reconvenes. In the meantime, it is important for members of that committee to be alerted of this bill’s importance and why it should be approved as quickly as possible in the new year.