Illinois’ cannabis legalization law is set to go into effect in January and will usher in what proponents hope is the most socially just legalization framework in the nation.
“We’ve spent decades decimating communities and destroying lives with the war on drugs,” said State Representative Kelly Cassidy. “For us it was really more about equity and ensuring that we are repairing harm.”
The state’s law allocates resources to minority communities and areas of the state that have been impacted the most by past crackdowns on marijuana. It also attempts to reduce the barrier to entry for entrepreneurs in hopes Illinois can lead the charge toward a more equitable cannabis industry, by giving them a leg up to compete for 75 licenses the state will begin to issue in May.
“This industry has the potential to be a generational wealth-building opportunity,” said Brian Scruggs, an entrepreneur in the sector.
Yet it remains to be seen if Illinois’ law will allow affected communities to capture a share of the cannabis wealth, and if it can, as Cassidy put it, address the “buffet of problems” associated with marijuana justice.