Illinois Lawmakers Fail To Update Cannabis Laws, Non-Profit Argues 'Corporate Greed' Played A Role

Zinger Key Points
  • Illinois lawmakers concluded the regular spring legislative session without deciding on certain cannabis and hemp bills.
  • A measure that would have restricted sales of intoxicating hemp-derived products to state-licensed cannabis dispensaries also failed.
  • The Cannabis Equity Coalition of Illinois criticized Green Thumb Industries for lobbying against medical marijuana access extension.  
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Illinois lawmakers concluded this year's regular spring legislative session without deciding on cannabis and hemp bills recently approved by the state Senate. This is the second year in a row marijuana legislation was overlooked, writes Crain's Chicago's John Pletz.

A hemp-focused measure that failed the Wednesday session, House Bill 4293, sponsored by Senate Majority leader Kimberly A. Lightford (D) would have restricted sales of intoxicating hemp-derived products to state-licensed cannabis dispensaries. The cannabis industry supported this strict regulation of hemp products such as Delta 8 or Delta 9, which would likely have put many CBD lounges and smoke shops out of business and resulted in the removal of CBD drinks and products from the market, reports Wttw.

"We ran out of time to get a full understanding of what the two bills were about," said state Rep. LaShawn Ford, (D) who opposed the hemp-regulation bill. "People were confused about how much regulation we would have and who would regulate it."

The other two hemp-related bills, which were supported by the hemp industry (Senate Bill 3790/House Bill 5306), did not advance at all.

"Everything has its time," said Gov.J.B. Pritzker (D), who signed a cannabis legalization bill into law some three years ago. The bill was then, and still is, lauded as the "most equity-centric" legalization effort in the nation. "I hope that there's some movement and thought about what this might look like in the new veto session," he added at the end of the legislative session.

"I think (hemp) should be regulated," Pritzker continued. "I believe that an unregulated product like this, which clearly has caused some health problems, ought to be regulated by the state. It's clear that it is not for medicinal purposes. It's not regulated the way that cannabis is, and yet it ends up on the market and . . . there's no restriction on who gets it, how much they can get, etc. So I really believe we need to step back and ask: What is in the best interest of the health of kids and adults across the state? And I think regulating it is proper."

Pritzker was a keynote speaker at the Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference in Chicago in September 2023. Benzinga's 19th large cannabis event with many industry leaders, lawmakers and advocates will be held also in Chicago this October 8-9. Engage with top executives, investors, policymakers, and activists to explore the industry’s future. Secure your tickets now before prices increase by following this link.

Tiffany Chappell Ingram, head of the Cannabis Business Association of Illinois, which represents cannabis growers and retailers, was not happy with the result. "We are disappointed the House failed to pass needed reforms to our state's cannabis laws and will continue to allow synthetic hemp products that are sickening children and adults to be sold with no oversight."

Many hemp growers, however, were relieved to see the bill's failure. "It feels good to still be alive," said Charles Wu, owner of Chi'Tiva, a hemp grower and retailer, writes Chicago Tribune. "But the problems have not been solved. We want regulations for 21-plus and packaging and labeling standards, but there's never been a compromise."

See Also: Illinois Cannabis Sales Hit Near-Record In March With $174.8M, Up Nearly 10% From Feb

Did ‘Corporate Greed' Play A Role?

Other amendments to the law that would notably help new entrants in the space who have licenses to cultivate and grow recreational cannabis also failed. These social equity applicants would have obtained a six-months extension to find locations for dispensaries and also the ability to raise money from outsiders to start their businesses. Furthermore, the proposals allowing cannabis dispensaries to offer drive-thru and curbside service and sell to medical patients without imposing a retail tax also failed. This means that medical marijuana patients can still get the discount at only 55 original medical marijuana dispensaries in the state.

The Cannabis Equity Coalition of Illinois attacked Chicago-based cannabis giant Green Thumb Industries GTBIF for lobbying against medical marijuana access extension. The nonprofit organization called for a boycott of GTI products and dispensaries arguing they are "under siege by corporate greed."

The Illinois Independent Craft Growers Association wrote a letter to the governor claiming GTI aims to keep the monopoly on "being able to offer the tax advantages to medical card holders, preventing new and smaller dispensaries from entering the medical market, which limits competition and harms patients and local craft growers. This has to stop. Our legislators need to focus on the 140,000 medical patients and not on those companies that lobby the hardest."

Green Thumb responded. "We have a history of championing patients, including leading advocacy efforts to ensure patients could access their products during the pandemic, and most recently, preserve curbside pickup services for patients."

The company further argued that the measure, HB 2911, contained language that "was neither operationally viable nor comprehensive enough for what Illinois patients deserve, such as requiring patient lanes or offering delivery services. Illinois legislators recognized the concerns and will continue working on this with the goal of passing it during veto session (this fall)."

Photo: Shutterstock

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Posted In: CannabisNewsCannabis Business Association of IllinoisIllinois cannabisIllinois hempJ.B. PritzkerKimberly A. LightfordLaShawn FordTiffany Chappell Ingram
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