Illinois officials, like those in many other states now, are looking to legalize recreational marijuana. The booming new industry has been shown to be a great success for states like Washington and Colorado, who have seen a reduction in crime, less opioid addiction and overdose as well as a lot of tax revenue to help schools and other community needs. There has been no rise in teen use of marijuana and no real negative consequences to these states. Last November, California, Nevada, Massachusetts and Maine all decided to legalize recreational marijuana and many other states are following (or at least attempting to follow) in their footsteps with Illinois being the latest to step forward with a proposal.
The Financial Potential for Illinois
The measure was introduced on Wednesday by 2 Democratic lawmakers, Senator Heather Steans and Rep. Kelly Cassidy. According to the Marijuana Policy Project using data provided by Colorado, Illinois stands to make a minimum of $350 million a year and up to $700 million from the legalization of recreational marijuana. Given the financial trouble the state has been experiencing, legalization offers a reasonable way to bring money into government as opposed to prohibition which costs the state a lot of money through law enforcement, court and jail costs. “It would generate hundreds of millions of dollars per year in new revenue for our state,” says Stean. ”Prohibition is a financial hole in the ground, and we should stop throwing taxpayer dollars into it.”
Details of the Illinois Recreational Marijuana Bill
The new law would make it legal for people over 21 to possess, grow and buy up to 28 grams (or approximately 1 ounce) of marijuana. People would also be allowed to grow up to 5 plants for recreational purposes. It would be taxed at $50 per ounce of wholesale marijuana on top of the state’s 6.25 percent sales tax. The proposal asks that half of the tax revenue goes to the state’s general fund and the other half go to schools and drug treatment and prevention programs.
The Development of the Bill
The bill is still in its initial stages of discussion. Cassidy and Stean are not pushing for a vote in this session. Their intention is to hold hearings and get feedback so that they can take all opinions into account and structure a version of the bill that can get support next year. As it stands, law enforcement is opposed to the bill, claiming that it will be damaging to public safety. Cassidy responded to this, saying, “Regulating marijuana and removing the criminal element from marijuana production and sales will make our communities safer.”
If all goes according to the plan and Illinois does vote to legalize recreational marijuana, it will be the first state in the Midwest to allow a legal marijuana market to thrive. Residents of the state as well as out of town visitors would be allowed to openly purchase marijuana, although it would not be legal to bring it over state lines. Sponsors of the bill are taking a thorough, patient approach to creating and pushing the bill forward. Time will tell how the state responds.