Illinois voters want state lawmakers to know that the time has come to drag marijuana from the underground and legalize it for recreational use. Two-thirds of the population want legal weed, according to ballot questions pushed through earlier this week in Cook County.
On Tuesday, 63 percent of voters responded “yes” when asked in a referendum, “Shall the State of Illinois legalize the cultivation, manufacture, distribution, testing, and sale of marijuana and marijuana products for recreational use by adults 21 and older subject to state regulation, taxation and local ordinance?” Nearly 260,000 people stood up in support of changing the state’s law against marijuana, while around 150,000 voted against it.
Although the ballot measure is non-binding, state lawmakers now know where the public stands on the issue of legal weed. For the past several years, legislation designed to bring a taxed and regulated cannabis trade to the Land of Lincoln has been discussed in the halls of the General Assembly. But there has not been enough support to bring it to fruition.
Republican Governor Bruce Rauner hasn’t helped matters. Calling it a “mistake,” he believes the state should wait and see what happens in Colorado and California “before we make any decision about it here.” The governor says he is concerned that drug addiction rates might skyrocket if this reform is allowed to take hold.
But there are potential leaders in line for the governor’s seat who do not feel the same.
Voters all across the state hit the polls on Tuesday to pick gubernatorial nominees. Some of the Democratic candidates, including Tuesday’s fan favorite, billionaire businessman J.B. Pritzker, have said that legalizing the leaf would be one of their first lines of business if elected. But Rauner is still holding strong in the primaries. The outcome of marijuana legalization could ultimately come down to which candidate take the reins.
“This campaign is about a fight for economic security about jobs, and wages, health care, education and human services for working families in Illinois,” Pritzker told the Chicago Tribune.
The Democratic nominee understands that legal marijuana would be a boon to the state economy. Some of the latest data shows the state stands to generate in upwards of $700 million a year in tax revenue through the sale of recreational cannabis.
Illinois continues to struggle with budgetary issues, so there is a desperate need for this form of income boost. A report published last week by Forbes shows that marijuana legalization can help rebuild struggling communities.