The Cook County Board of Commissioners was expected to vote Thursday on a new 3% tax on recreational cannabis.
A Cook County committee approved the tax, proposed in December, on Wednesday, with the full board to vote Thursday. If approved, that tax would be on top of the city's 3% tax, the state's varying levels of taxation and all regularly-applied sales taxes.
The county's new tax would take effect in July, if passed.
"The 3% rate the Board is considering is in line with what other local governments are imposing including the City of Chicago," a spokesman for Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said in a statement, adding, "The potential financial impact to Cook County from the legalization of cannabis could be significant."
In the first 12 days of legalized recreational marijuana use across Illinois, state officials say 495,385 transactions were processed for a total of more than $19.7 million dollars in sales.
Many residents of Cook County said they weren't surprised to learn that another layer of government was looking to profit off of Illinois' new blockbuster industry.
"Politics as usual," Matthew Ingram called it. "Everybody's got their hand in the cookie jar - everybody wants a piece of the pie."
"I feel like Cook County just needs money so I’m not surprised at all," added Hector Hernandez.
Preckwinkle’s office emphasized that the county's 2020 budget was balanced before taking into account revenue from cannabis and that any money collected from the tax would be a surplus.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot suggested Friday that she might be open to lowering taxes on recreational marijuana, but that she wants to see how the program shakes out in its early months.
“The taxes are high,” Lightfoot said at a city hall press conference. “I think there’s plenty of opportunity if necessary to go back and make the necessary tweaks, but this is so early on that I think we just have to let things play out a little bit more and then take stock of where we are in a year’s time.”
Of the 11 states where recreational marijuana has been legalized, Illinois’ taxes are second only to the state of Washington.
When state lawmakers were drafting the legislation to legalize pot, they imposed a unique three-tier tax structure. Products with THC levels below 35% are taxed at 10%; those over 35% THC are taxed at 25%; edibles draw a 20% tax.
By the time state, county and local sales taxes are figured in, high-THC pot in Chicago is taxed at a total of 41.25%.