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Trailer bill could help clarify, resolve issues in Illinois' recreational cannabis legislation

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Tuesday, June 11, 2019  |  Article  |   By Greg Bishop | The Center Square

Recreational Marijuana Cassidy, Kelly--State House, 14 , McCombie, Tony M.--State House, 71

They’re known as trailer bills, and state Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago, who sponsored the adult-use cannabis bill in the House, said one is likely for recreational cannabis.

“I came into this aware of the need for a trailer bill,” Cassidy said just before the measure passed with simple majorities. “Whenever you do anything this big, there’s going to be cleanup required.”

One issue involves home cultivation, or home grow. The initial bill allowed any adult to grow up to five plants at home under certain conditions. Lawmakers reached a compromise that only allows medical cannabis cardholders to grow marijuana at home.

Illinois Municipal League Executive Director Brad Cole said he's is seeking a way to enforce that, such as getting local lists of who’s allowed to grow at home.

“So that we will know, we and our friends in law enforcement and the folks who work for us in law enforcement will know who those home growers are that are authorized,” Cole said.

Cole, who said the league was neutral on the bill, also said the revenue collected to be distributed through the Local Government Distributive Fund for law enforcement training and impairment detection may not help certain communities.

“For small communities that do now have law enforcement entities there will be an issue of compliance,” Cole said. “And so we need to establish what the compliance mechanisms are for those communities if they would, in fact, have to distribute those funds to the county sheriff or someone else.”

Cole said the measure that passed has strict standards placed on such money through the LGDF, but that LGDF funds typically don’t have requirements on how the funds are to be used locally.

Other outstanding issues will have to be addressed by state agencies, not necessarily through new legislation. One such issue is how to detect marijuana-impaired drivers. Law enforcement groups warned the measure will go into effect Jan. 1, 2020, without any standardized roadside testing for cannabis impairment.

Cassidy said with the decriminalization of small amounts of cannabis that passed more than two years ago there were updates to what levels of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis that produces a high, would be allowed. But tests for such limits are still elusive and Cassidy said the state police still have not updated their standards.

“Until the department of State Police adopts standards and complete validation of any laboratories that test for the presence of cannabis or other drugs … but the state police has not done those things,” Cassidy said. “They’ll have to do that before those tests can be usable.”

“They might want to speed it up now,” said state Rep. Tony McCombie, R-Savannah.

Cassidy said her work wouldn't stop with the passage of the bill.

“I don’t anticipate that my pace of work is going to slow much as we move into the summer,” Cassidy said.

It’s unclear what cannabis-related trailer bills could surface, or when they’d be heard by the legislature.