Illinois Chamber of Commerce Concedes to Cannabis Reign

Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton

By Angela Underwood

Illinois Chamber of Commerce Concedes, Adapts to Legalization

Late night talk show host Steven Colbert mocking Illinois’ marijuana sales, Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton purchasing pot within hours of it being sold Jan.1, and some of the state’s 37 dispensaries closing for lack of supply, all speak directly to the near $11 million the state saw in sales the first week of legalized recreational use.

However, of all groups to frown upon the newfound state wealth is the Illinois Chamber of Commerce. Spokesperson Whitney Barnes told the New York Daily Weed Report the Illinois Chamber initially opposed the legalization of recreational cannabis in Illinois and does not believe legalization is the right direction for the state.

But that did not stop the business group from sitting at the table on behalf of Illinois businesses to negotiate what Barnes said are some of the toughest workplace safeguards in the U.S.  

“The Chamber also championed the need for strong local control allowing communities the authority to decide for themselves what recreational cannabis will look like in their area,” Barnes said. “Both were included in the final bill.”

HB1438, signed into law by Gov. J.B. Pritzker, makes the Prairie State the 11th in the country to concede to what the public wants—and that is pot. The public showed their gratitude the first day of sales with more than 77,000 transactions that totaled more than $3.1 million the first day of the New Year.

Rather than fight the power, Barnes said the chamber understands that recreational cannabis will be an evolving issue and will continue to participate in the legislative process and ongoing debate as they did before it became legal.

“We worked closely with the governor’s office on crafting final legislation that would ensure the strongest workplace protections in the nation,” she said, adding the chamber will continue to monitor the growth and regulation of the industry as  they do with other recreational and agricultural products while also advocating for businesses that would like to maintain a safe and drug-free work place for their employees.

Speaking of employees, there could now be a new set entering the Illinois workforce now that their low-level marijuana convictions were pardoned by Gov. Pritzker on New Year’s Eve. The leader’s leniency gave 11,017 citizens across 92 counties a fresh start in the new age of weed. As the New Year moves on and Illinois struggles to supply enough product to their patrons, the chamber will do what the chamber does best—fight for businesses rights.

“We are strongly encouraging our members and businesses throughout the state to ensure they have solid workplace drug policies in place to protect their business and their employees going into 2020,” Barnes said.