Lawmakers introduced a bill on Wednesday that would legalize recreational marijuana use in Illinois, but a vote on the issue likely won’t surface until next year.
Under the proposal, it would become legal for adults over the age of 21 to possess, grow and buy marijuana in Illinois. If passed, Illinois residents would be able to possess up to 28 grams of marijuana and grow up to five marijuana plants. The measure would also establish safety regulations such as chemical testing and labeling requirements.
Legalized Marijuana in Illinois
Illinois is considering legalizing marijuana after witnessing the financial success Colorado has had after legalizing the drugs. Estimates suggest that legal marijuana could generate between $350 million and $700 million in sales per year.
The proposal suggests taxing marijuana at $50 per ounce wholesale, plus Illinois’ standard 6.25% sales tax.
“If we bring this out in the open, we can generate revenue legally rather than for the black market,” said Sen. Heather Steans, who co-sponsored the bill. “Regulating marijuana and removing the criminal element from marijuana production and sales will make our communities safer,” added Rep. Kelly Cassidy, who also co-sponsored the proposal.
Not Everyone On Board
While Gov. Bruce Rauner and House Speaker Michael Madigan reserved judgment on the proposal, one voice spoke out loudly against the proposed bill. The Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police vocalized their opposition to the proposal, saying marijuana is a threat to public health and that it could create problems with law enforcement because it conflicts with federal law.
Others, like Rosalie Pacula, a senior economist at Rand Corp., said it’s easy to evaluate numbers in terms of revenue raised, but other factors aren’t so easy to account for when it comes to legalized marijuana.
“The tax revenue comes right away,” Pacula said. “The data on emergency room visits, car crashes, graduation rates and absenteeism takes a lot longer.”
Currently, Illinois allows for the legal sale and distribution of marijuana for medicinal purposes if a person has been diagnosed with one of 40 approved conditions and has been given clearance by a doctor. If the new proposal is passed, these medical dispensaries would be the only places where a recreational user could by the drug. After one year, other licensed businesses could enter the market.
It will be fascinating to see how this proposal is viewed by lawmakers, and we’ll certainly keep tabs on all things recreational marijuana as town hall meetings and votes on the subject approach.