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Illinois Lawmakers Pushing to Legalize Recreational Marijuana

But the plan may not be realized until early 2018.

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Earlier this week, state lawmakers introduce a piece of legislation aimed at establishing a taxed and regulated cannabis industry, one that would allow adults 21 and over to purchase pot from their neighborhood dispensary. In addition, the bill would also allow people to possess of up to 28 grams of weed without any trouble from the law.

The measure, filed in both chambers by Illinois State Senator Heather Steans and Illinois State Representative Kelly Cassidy, also comes with a home cultivation provision that would give adults the right to grow up to five plants at home for personal use.

If the proposal goes the distance in its current form, it would create a recreational cannabis industry similar to what is currently underway in Colorado and Washington. Some of the latest statistics from the Marijuana Policy Project shows the state could generate somewhere between $350 million to $700 million per year by bringing weed out of the black market.

But lawmakers say the push to legalize is not for the economic benefits alone.

“Marijuana prohibition is a quagmire that creates far more problems than it prevents,” said Representative Kelly Cassidy, one of the bill’s sponsors. “Several states have adopted sensible alternatives to prohibition, and it is time for Illinois to develop its own exit strategy.

“Regulating marijuana and removing the criminal element from marijuana production and sales will make our communities safer,” she added.

Unfortunately, law enforcement agencies are expected to protest. The Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police does not support the concept of legalization, as they believe it to be a threat to public health and safety.

Nevertheless, Steans and Cassidy say their intention is not merely to get the bill brought up for a vote this session. Instead, they want to get the issue on the table in an effort to draft a version that is guaranteed to pass in 2018, reports the Chicago Tribune.

"This is going to take some time to get negotiated between all the different stakeholders," Dan Linn, executive director of the Illinois chapter of NORML, told the Chicago Reader. “We're talking about potentially a very large industry coming into Illinois."

To date, eight states have legalized marijuana for recreational use.

Some of the latest national polls show the majority of the population (consistently around 60 percent) believes marijuana should be handled similarly to alcohol and tobacco.

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