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Cook County OKs 3% marijuana tax
Today's action by the Cook County Board means people who buy weed in Chicago will pay 6 percent in local sales taxes in addition to the state rate of 20 to 30 percent.

Thursday, January 16, 2020
Crain's Chicago Business
by A.D. Quig

Today the Cook County Board approved a 3 percent tax on recreational marijuana, meaning people who buy weed in Chicago will pay 6 percent in local sales taxes in addition to the state rate of 20 to 30 percent.

Tax collections won't start until July, and county officials do not expect to see revenues until late 2020.

The board today also approved the creation of a cannabis commission, as well as zoning regulations for where pot businesses can locate in unincorporated Cook County.

"I think all the collar counties—DuPage, Will, Lake, Kendall—are charging 3 percent. I think Kane is 2.5 percent. We're in line with the counties around us," Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said. Of the municipalities within Cook, she said, 52 are charging the maximum 3 percent allowed by the state.

Chicago, Joliet and Romeoville are among those planning a 3 percent tax rate. Worth and Blue Island are the only municipalities planning on taxing less.

Ammar Rizki, Cook County's chief financial officer, said he expected revenues to largely be dedicated to the county's public safety and health funds. The county's 2020 budget boosted staff at the state's attorney's and circuit court clerk's offices to help handle expungements.

Preckwinkle, who does not drink or smoke, said she was less concerned how the compounded tax rate—the sales tax plus local tax rates and the state's 20 percent to 30 percent tax, which depends on potency—might affect legal purchases, and more concerned with legalization as a means of justice for people of color previously arrested for possession and distribution.

She said the new 11-member county cannabis commission will help achieve some of that justice. It's tasked with assisting "in determining the economic, legal and social impact of the recreational cannabis industry on Cook County and its residents," focusing on social-equity applicants, services in the state's "disproportionately impacted areas" and expungement.

County Commissioner Bill Lowry, chair of the new commission, said last month that recommendations might deal "with property. It may be something dealing with a funding source; we're going to look at everything."

Four commissioners voted "present"—a neutral vote, neither yes nor no—on the marijuana measures today: Democrats Bridget Degnen and Stanley Moore, and Republicans Peter Silvestri and Sean Morrison. (Two were absent: Deborah Sims and Bill Lowry.) Silvestri, an attorney, said he had a marijuana client he'd represented on a zoning matter, though he would not name the client. Morrison expressed concerns about a lack of clarity over how revenues would be spent.

Degnen, formerly a deputy director of the Medical Cannabis Pilot Program at the Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation, said she knows every dispensary owner in the state and many of the cultivation owners. Several became donors to her 2018 campaign. "To the extent it would incur a benefit for any of those licensees . . . I don't want there to be any appearance of conflict or impropriety," she said.

Moore said, aside from equity concerns, "I just don't think that we've done enough to figure out how to tax it, how to test it. There's no parameters in place to make sure it's safe. . . .There's just a lot of unknown variables."



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