Lawmakers around the country are finding more and more reasons to legalize marijuana. Especially when it comes to states in dire need of crime reduction and financial assistance. Illinois is one of those states experiencing a budget crisis who could benefit from the tax revenue that would come in from legalizing recreational marijuana. The state has already legalized medical marijuana and now Democratic state Rep. Kelly Cassidy and state Sen. Heather Steans have gotten together to write a bill that would legalize recreational marijuana in the state and tax it in the same way alcohol is taxed.
The Fiscal Troubles Looming Over Illinois
Illinois is currently faced with a $4.6 billion operating downfall. The Civic Federation’s Institute for Illinois’ Fiscal Sustainability wrote an 86 page report on why Gov. Bruce Rauner’s budget will not work. The economic crisis is so extensive at this point that the money that could be generated by marijuana taxes will still not be enough to save the state, but Cassidy and Steans believe it could help those who are most impacted by the crisis. It would decrease crime and create many jobs for those in need as well as help the elderly, the sick and colleges that need funding. As of now though, there is opposition from parties who believe the money would still only account for a small amount of what is needed by the state.
Cassidy and Steans still believe that the $350 to $700 million that could be generated from a legal marijuana industry could do a lot of good for the state. They have been holding meetings to discuss the issue and, at one of the meetings, Steans explained as reported by The Columbia Chronicle, “We want to look and understand what is happening around the country on taxing and regulating [marijuana], and if there are other ways to be thinking about this,” according to the Columbia Chronicle.
How Other States Are Faring with Similar Laws
The measure would allow adults over the age of 21 to possess up to 28 grams of marijuana and grow up to 5 plants at home. A regulatory system would be put in place to decide and manage how marijuana is grown, manufactured, tested and sold in the state. Colorado made over $200 million in tax revenue last year, which went to many needed places, including helping schools and education in the state. Oregon made $75 million. There has been no increase in teen use in either state. Opioid overdose and addiction as well as crime is down. There has been no visible negative repercussion for legalizing in the state.
Last November California, Nevada, Massachusetts and Maine joined Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Alaska and D.C. in legalizing marijuana and many states including Vermont and Rhode Island are also looking to legalize through legislature rather than a vote. Given that the plant has so many medicinal benefits and is safer and healthier than both alcohol and cigarettes, it seems like a valid direction to pursue for Cassidy and Steans on behalf of Illinois residents. Time will tell how the duo will proceed with getting this bill passed and signed into law.