Lawmakers from Illinois are considering passing a law to make recreational marijuana legal in the state. If the law is passed, Illinois would be the first Midwest state and the ninth state in the country to legalize recreational marijuana.
Last week, two Chicago Democrats introduced the legislation in the Congress. The bill would make small amounts of marijuana legal for adults, and it would grant licenses to some business to sell marijuana products. Lawmakers believe that passing the law would help to solve the state’s financial crisis.
The bill was introduced by Senator Heather Steans and Representative Kelly Cassidy. They believe that the legalization could raise between $350 to $700 million in tax revenue, as well as create new jobs and boost the state’s tourism business.
Poll showed that majority of Illinois voters support legalization
Steans and Cassidy believe that the legislation will face opposition from other lawmakers, but they plan to start conversations with every legislator to boost the bill. Interest groups and the public will also be reached out to throughout the spring, but they won’t move the bill this session.
The Association of Police Chiefs of Illinois said it’s against the legislation because they believe that it would have an adverse impact on traffic safety.
Rep. Cassidy introduced along with the legislation, polls conducted in the state regarding the legalization of marijuana. The poll showed that two-thirds of voters support the legalization of cannabis as long as it’s regulated and taxed, like alcohol. The surveyed voters came were from different political parties, ages, and regions of the state.
The survey was conducted by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, and it was released on March 27. In Chicago, 74 percent of voters support cannabis legalization, and 70 percent of the electorate believe the same in Cook, a city that’s a few miles apart from the windy city. Collar counties in Illinois support the legalization too, and in southern regions of the state, the legalization received a 54 percent support from the voters.
The poll showed that voters who are 35-years old or younger support marijuana the most, with an astounding 83 percent support for the legalization of cannabis. Voters between 35 and 50-years old also support the legalization, with a seventy-seven percent result. Marijuana legalization was also backed by voters aged 51 to 65-years old with a 69 percent of support, and voters aged 66 years or more had the lowest support for the legalization, with a 51 percent support.
“People evolve a lot more quickly than politicians,” said Rep. Cassidy while addressing the house. “The people we represent understand that the sky isn’t going to fall –that prohibition hasn’t worked, it doesn’t work, and this is an opportunity to bring in much-needed revenue, make our communities safer and create jobs in a lot of communities that are desperate for them.”
The legislation’s taxes and fines
Cassidy and Steans’ law would have the Illinois state tax for marijuana at a rate of $50 per ounce, and retail sales would be taxed at 6.25 percent. It would also make marijuana legal for anyone 21 years old or older, and it would be regulated the same as alcohol. Buyers would have to present identification when purchasing the product and selling to underage people would be illegal. Public smoking would still be illegal, and people who smoke in public could be punished with a $100 fine.
Manufacturing and distributing cannabis would be legal for anyone 21 years old or older. However, growers would be carefully regulated, and any person wishing to grow marijuana would have to get a license to do so. Also, no one under 21 years old would be allowed to enter a marijuana crop, and growers can only cultivate the plant on a property which they own legally, or with proper consent of the asset owner. Anyone violating these stipulations could be punished with a fine up to $750.
Possession of marijuana would be limited to 28 grams per state residents, and 14 grams to nonresidents. Smoking pot while driving would still be illegal. If anyone is caught smoking marijuana while driving, they could face a fine up to $200 or face having driver’s license suspended for six months. A second offense of this crime could lead to a $500 fine and suspension of driver’s license for a year.
The state already decriminalized small amounts of marijuana in July of 2017, after Governor Bruce Rauner signed legislation that made marijuana possession of up to 10 grams punishable by a fine between $100 and $200. Before this legislation, if someone was found with marijuana, they faced a misdemeanor charge, a fine of up to $1500 and possible incarceration of up to six months.
If the bill is approved, the Department of Agriculture would have 180 days to create proper regulations for establishments selling and dealing cannabis products. The legislation has been passed to the Appropriations-Public Safety Committee
Source: Illinois Policy