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House adjourns before voting on cannabis omnibus and hemp bill

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Lawmakers and stakeholders deliberated on two cannabis bills in the Illinois House to the edge of the 5 a.m. spring-session deadline yesterday morning but ultimately did not bring either House Bill 4293, the Hemp Consumer Products Act, nor House Bill 2911, a cannabis omnibus, to the floor for a vote. The cannabis omnibus and the Hemp Consumer Products Act are still alive and have paths forward.

Proponents of the cannabis omnibus, which contains several provisions that would improve cannabis medical patients’ lives, now have to again push for those same provisions, which have already stalled several times in past legislative sessions, in the same bill or a new bill during the fall veto session. The cannabis omnibus stalled after Green Thumb Industries (GTI) secretly and successfully lobbied to delete the provision that would have allowed medical patients and caregivers to shop at any Illinois dispensary at the current medical patient tax rate. The late deletion of that provision poisoned the bill enough that the bill was not brought to the floor for a vote, pausing the passing of all the other cannabis provisions. GTI issued a statement claiming to have always supported patient access to medicine. “We have a history of championing patients, including leading advocacy efforts to ensure patients could access their products during the pandemic, and most recently, preserve curbside pickup services for patients,” the statement read. The proposed measure, HB 2911, GTI said, “included language that was neither operationally viable nor comprehensive enough for what Illinois patients deserve, such as requiring patient lanes or offering delivery services. Illinois legislators recognized the concerns and will continue working on this with the goal of passing it during veto session (this fall).”

The Hemp Consumer Products Act includes new hemp definitions, regulations, taxes, licensing, civil penalties, and provisions that require hemp and hemp-derived businesses to follow laws set forth in the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Act and the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act. Many opponents of the Hemp Consumer Products Act consider the bill to be a ban on all hemp products and warn that the adjournment before a vote on the bill is only a temporary reprieve. The bill also could be revisited for a vote during the veto session in the fall, or new bills could be created for the fall session. In the meantime, some local-level municipalities already have moved and are trying to move forward with hemp-product bans. Other possibilities may include the Department of Agriculture submitting for review to the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules new regulatory rulemaking for hemp and hemp products or the Governor’s Office could take up the issue as an urgent public health and safety matter this summer to trigger immediate executive action or new regulatory steps. Hemp industry lawyers are preparing to file lawsuits if a legislative or regulatory ban moves forward. Based on legal cases in other states, they believe they have a legal path forward. Either way, stakeholders and lawmakers will continue the hemp regulation-battle debate into the summer and beyond.

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