Will Illinois Follow Vermont and Legalize Marijuana Through their Legislature?
CHICAGO — Legislatures in Illinois met this week to discuss legalizing recreational marijuana in the state. State Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago) and State Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago), who are the sponsors of the bill, proposed legalizing recreational marijuana at a public hearing on Monday that would permit adults to possess up to an ounce of cannabis, as well as allow retailers to sell cannabis products.
President of the Cook County Board Toni Preckwinkle also spoke at the hearing, citing the disproportionate targeting of minorities by police as a factor. "As we strive to preserve and protect our communities, we need resources,” she said. “We waste millions of dollars on prosecuting residents on low levels of drug charges including possession of small amounts of marijuana that are often dropped before or at trial.” Preckwinkle also said that White students and professionals are infrequently arrested or detained over marijuana. She added that marijuana prohibition does not work and that regulations will keep the community safer.
Committees from both the Illinois House and Senate met for the fourth time to discuss how to tax and regulate recreational marijuana. So far, there two bills that are being proposed permitting Illinois residents to possess up to 28 grams of marijuana legally. The two bills propose that marijuana be regulated just like alcohol in the state.
The bills also propose an excise tax of $50 excise on marijuana cultivators. Retailers would have to pay a state sales tax on marijuana. Lawmakers estimate that $300 to $700 million will be generated in tax revenue from legalizing recreational marijuana in the state.
The committee will not conduct any votes until they monitor other states that have legalized the drug. They will also research how public health, law enforcement and economics would be affected by legalization. The legislatures will hear from both advocates and opponents to legalization prior to any vote. A new bill is expected to be proposed in February.
Niko Mann is a freelance writer living in Los Angeles, California.