May 1, 2024 - News

Weed policy change big for Illinois

Photo of the exterior of a recreational marijuana dispensary

The Wrigleyville Sunnyside recreational marijuana dispensary in 2021. Photo: E. Jason Wambsgans/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

The Biden administration's plan to reclassify marijuana as a less dangerous drug could have a major impact on legal weed in Illinois.

The big picture: Easing federal marijuana restrictions could clear hurdles for the cannabis industry and allow for scientific research on the drug's effects.

Zoom in: This move could give small businesses access to federal tax deductions they hadn't had previously, experts tell Axios.

  • Some industry insiders estimate that marijuana businesses currently give away 70% of their revenue to taxes.

What they're saying: "Illinois businesses will save a lot more money," Grown In publisher Brad Spirrison tells Axios. "It also continues to normalize cannabis to potential investors."

  • "For years, the cannabis industry has faced undue scrutiny and legal hurdles due to its classification," Ivy Hall's Omar Delgado said in a statement. He also says the classification "perpetuated harmful stereotypes and disproportionately impacted marginalized communities."

State of play: The DEA is moving to reclassify marijuana from a Schedule I controlled substance — which includes hard drugs like heroin and LSD — to a Schedule III drug, alongside ketamine and anabolic steroids.

  • The policy change also means that the federal government will recognize the medical uses of the drug and open it up for scientific research, which it hadn't done before.
  • This would be the DEA's biggest policy change in over 50 years.

Yes, but: Weed is still illegal for recreational use federally, which means marijuana growers and sellers don't have access to the federal banking system.

By the numbers: Illinois reached $1.6 billion in recreational marijuana sales last year, while selling over 42 million products at dispensaries. That amounted to more than $400 million in tax revenue.

  • There are over 170 dispensaries in Illinois.

The intrigue: In Springfield, local lawmakers are mulling their own policy change to enact stricter regulations for unlicensed THC and hemp products.

What's next: The DEA plan still needs approval by the White House Office of Management and Budget.

  • The Attorney General's Office will send the rule to OMB for review as soon as Tuesday, administration and congressional sources familiar confirmed to Axios.
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