Illinois is poised to begin licensing scores of new dispensaries now that the General Assembly has voted to legalize the possession of recreational cannabis effective January 1, 2020.

On May 31, after rounds of spirited debate in both houses, the House of Representatives passed House Bill 1438 by a 66-47 margin. Championed by Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago) and Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago), it mirrored a bill passed by the Senate earlier in the week that legalized recreational cannabis by persons 21 and older.

The bill sets up a framework for licensing recreational cannabis dispensaries and new cultivation and processing facilities, and contains a number of social justice provisions such as expungement of arrest records for possession of small amounts of cannabis and community investment funds to be supported by license fees and other fees under the bill.

Initially, dispensaries and cultivation centers licensed under the Illinois Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program will be able to apply for early approval licenses in order to begin supplying and selling recreational cannabis on January 1, 2020. Following those early approval licenses, up to 75 new dispensary licenses will be available for issuance in mid-2020.

Applications for those new licenses will be available no later than October 1, 2019, and will be due by January 1, 2020. Up to 110 additional dispensary licenses will be issued by January 1, 2021.

No additional cultivation licenses are specified in the bill, however, the Department of Agriculture has the discretion to issue additional cultivation licenses if needed, up to a maximum of 30. The new law also creates a new type of limited cultivation license called a “craft grower,” and up to 40 craft grower licenses will be issued by July 1, 2020, with additional licenses to be issued in 2021.

The full text of the bill can be found here.