Missouri just announced that it’s hiking its state budget by $3 million in anticipation of the medical marijuana market. Illinois, its neighbor, wants to more than double that figure to help regulate recreational cannabis. Both Illinois and Missouri are shifting toward becoming more than marijuana-friendly, like several other states.
The following is a re-post of an article written by Ally Marotti of the Chicago Tribune
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The state wants to set aside $8 million for the Department of Agriculture to regulate Illinois’ potential recreational marijuana industry, as state lawmakers work toward legalizing the still federally banned drug.
The Agriculture Department is already responsible for the permitting and oversight of cannabis growers within the state’s medical marijuana program. Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s 2020 budget proposal includes a provision for the $8 million in funding, which is more than double the amount the department would receive to continue its work on the medical side. The Department of Public Health also helps regulate the medical program.
Pritzker was being proactive in adding that budget line, said John Sullivan, director of the Department of Agriculture. The department’s reach will remain uncertain until a law is in place, but he said the money likely would be spent on adding staff for inspecting facilities and on the legal side.
“We don’t know at this point what the department’s role would be, but whatever our role is, certainly it would take additional staff,” he said.
Illinois rolled out its medical marijuana program less than four years ago, and it has grown to include more than 62,000 registered patients. Now, state lawmakers are drafting a bill that would legalize recreational marijuana that they hope to get passed by May.
Several studies have predicted huge demand growth if that occurs, and medical marijuana cultivators are increasing their grow capacity in preparation.
So far, the Department of Agriculture has not taken any steps to prepare for a potential recreational program, Sullivan said.
“We don’t want to get the cart before the horse, so to speak,” he said. “Once we know what the legalization involves and once we know what the department’s role is, we can start to get geared up.”
If Pritzker’s proposed 2020 budget passes as is, the state would set aside $117 million for the Department of Agriculture, which includes the $8 million for recreational marijuana.
Separately, the Department of Public Health asked for $500,000 to cover costs for administrative expenses related to a potential recreational marijuana program. That compares to the $6.5 million budget line for that department’s role in regulating medical cannabis program.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker has said he believes legalizing recreational use of the drug, which he supports, could generate $170 million for the budget in licensing fees.