| February 1, 2019

Should Illinois legalize marijuana? Probably!

Illinois could be on the path to soon legalize the use of recreational marijuana in the state. Advocates of legal marijuana in Illinois rejoiced when J.B Pritzker, a proponent of marijuana legalization, was elected governor in November 2018.

Of course, Governor Pritzker cannot legalize marijuana on his own because legalization requires an act of the Illinois legislature. Also, this bill is not an assured passage since there are many state lawmakers who oppose legalization. Even so, with Pritzker’s move to the governor’s mansion, there is hope the bill for legalization could be passed very soon.

With expanded Democrat control of legislative chambers, a cannabis bill could be expected to pass. However, there are many points to take into consideration, such as what to do with the tax revenue that legal weed could generate. Other members of the state legislature have also put in effort to support this legalization.

“I suspect it’s a done deal,” said the former chairman of the Illinois Republican Party, Pat Brady, now a consultant and lobbyist who helped NuMed medical cannabis producers win three medical marijuana dispensary licenses.

Insights on the Legalization

Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize marijuana for recreational use in 2012 and passage of their bills led other states to consider legalization. In Illinois, the use of medical marijuana is legal for some conditions, but it cannot be used for recreational purposes. This means that even though medical marijuana is legal for specific uses, it is not possible to legally purchase it within the state. In addition to the passage of the bill, until businesses are licensed and legalized, there will be no retail of recreational cannabis anywhere in the state.

Sponsors have a planned to bring about the new legalization bill in January and hope to get it passed before the end of May. The bill will permit the commercial sale and regulation of marijuana for adults 21 and over. There will probably be a six-month waiting period before the issuance of licenses for growing and selling marijuana for recreational purposes while legislators draw up rules for operations.

Sponsors say they will continue meetings with stakeholders in order to revise the final details and discuss a wide range of issues. “In the interests of keeping the public safe from harm, expanding true justice in our criminal justice system, and advancing economic inclusion, I will work with the legislature to legalize, tax and regulate the sale of recreational cannabis in Illinois,” said Pritzker on Monday.

The citizens of Illinois, including around 90 percent of Chicago voters, agreed to support the revenue coming from marijuana sales to fund schools and poor communities. Deputy Director Sharone Mitchell, of the Illinois Justice Project said “We want to ensure that funding or tax benefits that can come from the sale of legal cannabis are reinvested in communities that have been damaged by the criminal justice system”. Along with this, Mitchell says that the legalization of recreational marijuana could bring equality for communities of color that have been negatively affected by the drug policy.

The Growing Consensus for Marijuana Legalization

As the discussion of legalizing marijuana arises in Illinois, there are many who oppose legalization. However, many individuals who back the legalization maintain that it will help fund many programs in the state, such as substance abuse education and treatment. This could also mean expungement of marijuana-related convictions. Additionally, legalization adds a great value through investments for poor communities affected by violence.

Legalization will bring convenient access to dispensaries and licensed marijuana businesses, so it is essential that the government be fully involved in the process to ensure a successful and safe market. If consumers of recreational marijuana are unable to gain easy access to it, they will resort to other options, such as the unregulated black market.

Financial Impact of Legalizing Marijuana

A new study preformed by the Illinois Economic Policy Institute (ILEPI) shows that the cannabis legalization bill could potentially have a major effect on the economy and that many high taxpayer costs in the state could be reduced.

The Illinois economy would grow as a result of legalizing recreational marijuana. The annual economic impact of legalization could be more than $1 billion a year while creating over 2,600 businesses and 24,000 new jobs, including a tax revenue of around $525 million annually. Below are the summarized ways the Illinois economy would grow if the law were to pass:

  • Legalization would boost the Illinois economy by $1 billion annually
  • It would allow the state to include additional pension payments and public investments, college tuition assistance programs and prevention programs focused on drug treatments
  • Generate $525 million in new tax revenues

Legalization and the regulation of recreational marijuana would reduce taxpayer costs while improving the state’s budget situation. Last year, Michigan was the first state in the Midwest to legalize recreational cannabis and Illinois is likely to soon follow due to the many benefits that legalization will bring to the state.

 


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