Public Hearing For Proposal To Legalize Pot For Recreational Use

Sen. Majority Leader Rich Wardner testifies on medical marijuana in the House Human Services Committee

An Illinois senator is hoping to make recreational marijuana legal in the state. "Marijuana prohibition is a quagmire that creates far more problems than it prevents", Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago) said.

Bills introduced in both chambers of the IL legislature this week seek to make it legal for adults (21 and over) to possess, grow, and purchase up to 28 grams of marijuana.

Eight states have already fully decriminalized and begun taxing cannabis, and annual tax revenue from marijuana sales could generate between $349 million and $699 million per year in new revenue for IL, according to the Colorado-based pro-legalization Marijuana Policy Project.

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If approved, the plan would make IL the first state in the Midwest to allow the general public, including out-of-state visitors, to buy marijuana, though it would remain illegal to transport it across state lines. Heather Steans, D-Chicago, submitted a bill to legalize possession of up to 28 grams of marijuana.

Based on sales of recreational marijuana in Colorado, the Marijuana Policy Project, a national advocacy group, estimates sales in IL could generate between about $350 million and $700 million per year in IL.

Sen. Steans also wants to explore the issue of marijuana as an alternative to opioids for pain management. Purchases would have a sales tax of six-and-a-quarter percent. She said the law would redirect that money into legitimate, taxpaying businesses and generate hundreds of millions of dollars in new revenue instead of funding gangs.

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"Right now, all the money being spent on marijuana is going into the pockets of criminals and cartels", Steans said. "Several states have adopted sensible alternatives to prohibition, and it is time for IL to develop its own exit strategy".

Eleni Demertzis, a spokesperson for Gov. Bruce Rauner, told Chicagoist via email that "the two bills are now under review" by the governor's office.

The Marijuana Policy Project reports eight states have enacted laws regulating and taxing marijuana for adult use.

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