Illinois could become the first state on the outskirts of Middle America to establish a fully legal cannabis trade.
According to a report from DNA Info, two lawmakers intend to push legislation at the beginning of next year aimed at legalizing marijuana for recreational use.
State Senator Heather Steans and state Representative Kelly Cassidy, who believe legal weed could help fix some of the state’s financial woes, brought the issue to the table earlier this year with the understanding that the bill did not stand a fighting chance at going the distance.
Instead, the two legislative forces wanted to give other members of the Assembly plenty of time to stew on the measure in an effort to give it a better chance for survival in 2018.
"We want to be sure that we are doing it in the way that makes the most sense," Steans said.
The initial draft of the proposal, which failed to receive a vote before the end of the 2017 session, would have given adults 21 and older the freedom to purchase marijuana in a manner similar to beer. It also came with a home cultivation provision that would have given residents the ability to grow weed on their own private property for personal use.
A revised version of the bill, which the lawmakers will resubmit sometime before March, will focus on establishing the “right regulatory structure” and the “right tax structure,” Steans told the news source.
Some of the latest data shows the Land of Lincoln could cash in on marijuana legalization in a big way.
If the state implements a retail cannabis trade similar to what is currently underway in states like Colorado and Washington, it could generate somewhere between $350 million to $700 million in annual tax revenue. This money would be used to improve the public school system and fund drug prevention and treatment programs all across the state.
Although Governor Bruce Rauner is not exactly champing at the opportunity to put a recreational marijuana law on the books anytime in the near future, he has promised to give the bill his full consideration if it crosses his desk. Unfortuantely, Rauner is no stranger to blocking marijuana-related measures. Last year, the governor directed his the Department of Public Health not to expand the state’s medical marijuana pilot program.
The latest poll from Southern University of Illinois shows that 66 percent of Illinois residents support the idea of allowing marijuana to be taxed and regulated in the same way as alcohol and tobacco.
Representative Cassidy believes these numbers indicate that the state government needs to get with the times.
“People evolve much more quickly than politicians do,” she told Chicago Magazine back in May. “Our colleagues need to catch up and so does the governor, but that’s why Heather [Steans] and I are going about this so methodically.”