Marijuana Legalization Prompts Community Conversation

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Recreational Marijuana Bill

On May 31, Illinois lawmakers voted to legalize recreational marijuana use for adults 21 and older.

Illinois residents may possess up to 30 grams of marijuana, which is equal to an ounce of cannabis flower, or five grams of cannabis concentrate, or 500 milligrams of THC-infused products such as edibles or lotions.

“The general assembly has found that cannabis should be regulated in a manner similar to alcohol,” said DuPage County Attorney Bob Berlin. “It will still be illegal to drive under the influence of cannabis just like it is illegal to drive under the influence of alcohol.”

Naperville Weighs In

As the bill goes to Governor JB Pritzker’s desk for signing, local officials wanted to weigh in.

“I think it’s important to make sure that we as a city council make a proper decision on what image our public wants for our community. And that’s kind of what’s driven this whole conversation,” said Councilwoman Patty Gustin.

Councilwoman Gustin and Councilman Kevin Coyne hosted a “Not Your Momma’s Marijuana” discussion.

THC Today

It’s a title that was driven home by Dr. Aaron Weiner from Linden Oaks Behavioral Health.

“So you may or may not know that Woodstock pot was about 3-4% THC,” said Dr. Weiner. “It was around there by ’95 but once the industry started kicking in by 2012 the average pot that was being seized off the street was at 12%. Right now the average is 20% and you can actually buy it right now out of dispensaries all the way up to 30%. And by dispensaries I mean medical ones in our state right now, which by the way are the first ones who will be able to sell to the public.”

Local Panel Discussion

Also on the panel were Matt Quinn, a counselor at Rosecrance Addiction Rehab, KidsMatter’s Kamala Martinez, and retired Naperville Police Detective Rich Wistocki.

Marijuana health risks, the impact on local law enforcement needing more specialized training, and the social effects on teens were topics the speakers cited from many studies.

Negative Effects

Many on the panel openly stated they were against the soon-to-be law.

“But unfortunately I think a lot of parents are falling into this trap and this cultural way of thinking ‘well it’s getting legalized, what’s the difference between 21 and 16 or 17?’ There’s a huge difference,” said Quinn. “The brain development piece, the risk for progression – it’s a whole different ball game when you have a 13,14,15, 16 year old using marijuana.”

Positive Effects

While others in the audience found some positives the legalization could bring.

“One of the things that I do think is good about the bill is that is regulates THC levels and that it says you have to put that on all the labels,” explained Michelle “Mimi” Cowan, a Will County board member for District 11. “Well a significant safety feature will be knowing what those THC levels are when you buy something. And being able to judge your reaction based on that. So that is one thing that I do think is good about the bill. Does that mean I think Will County should opt in or out in allowing sales? I haven’t quite decided yet.”

Opting In or Out

Municipalities and counties may ban cannabis businesses within their borders and can opt out of the law. According to Dr. Wiener, 85% of California municipalities have done so already.

But 81st House District representative Anne Stava-Murray, who voted in favor of the bill, thinks there are enough pros for Naperville to opt in.

“If they choose to have license holders within their borders they can have additional tax revenue collected that goes directly to the municipality,” said Stava-Murray. “We all know that our municipality, that Naperville can be very cash-strapped at times for important measures. And so this is an important source of additional – potential additional revenue that we could be having.”

Taxing Marijuana Sales

Sales of marijuana will be taxed at 10% for THC levels at or less than 35%. THC concentrations of more than 35% will be taxed at 25% and cannabis-infused products will be taxed at 20%.

Municipalities may add additional special tax in .25% increments each year up to 3%.

The possession and sales of marijuana in Illinois begins January 1, 2020.

Naperville News 17’s Christine Lena reports.