Illinois: Is Legalization Imminent When Pritzker Moves to Governor's Mansion?

With Democrats expanding control in both chambers, is cannabis legalization on the horizon in the Land of Lincoln?

Collective shouts of joy surely rose through the haze of cannabis smoke with the news of J.B. Pritzker’s victory in Tuesday’s midterms.

Some enthusiasts are now wishfully thinking the new governor of Illinois will have weed legalized before the end of next year.

But we’re told that regardless of the hopes pinned on Governor-elect Pritzker by the pot lobby, he can’t legalize recreational cannabis without an act of the Illinois legislature and apparently there are some state lawmakers, particularly Republicans, who aren’t on board with legal weed.

As Democrats expanded their control of both legislative chambers in Tuesday’s midterms, a cannabis bill is expected to pass but some say that both sides of the aisle could waste time quibbling over the details, such as how to use the the tax revenue legal weed will generate.

Enter Former Republican Politician Now Working in the Cannabis Industry

“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.

“People see it as a new source of revenue. The true battle will be over who gets their cut of it taxwise,” noted Brady, who obviously is getting his cut from NuMed.

Supporters of legalization say that the money generated by legal cannabis will help fund substance abuse education and treatment in Illinois, which like many other US states, has a problem. The Illinois Department of Human Services estimated that 1,826 people died in 2016 from opioid-related overdoses and the problem persists.

Needless to say, cannabis could help with the opioid crisis but that’s another story.

A new study put the estimated annual economic impact of legalization in Illinois at more than $1 billion a year; estimated legalization would create some 2,600 businesses and 24,000 jobs, plus tax revenue of $525 million annually.

With this level of job creation and tax revenue, a reasonable cannabis legalization bill could allow for expungement of past marijuana convictions along with provisions to ensure access into the industry for women and minorities, who are blatantly underrepresented.

It could also mean investment for poor communities that have been disproportionately harmed by the war on drugs, say legalization advocates.

With all of this, has to wonder: what are you waiting for Illinois?

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