On Wednesday, a couple of state lawmakers marched up to the Illinois State Capitol to introduce a piece of legislation to the General Assembly aimed at establishing taxed and regulated recreational marijuana indusry that would allow adults 21 and over to purchase pot from their neighborhood dispensary.
The measure, which was filed in both the House and Senate, also comes strapped with a home cultivation clause that would give adults the freedom to grow up to five plants at home for personal use.
All in all, the proposal is designed to create a recreational cannabis industry similar to what is currently underway in Colorado and Washington. Some of the latest data from the Marijuana Policy Project shows the state could generate somewhere between $350 million to $700 million per year by implementing this progressive reform.
But lawmakers say they are not pushing the bill solely for its potential economic benefit.
“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.
It is not yet known if the bill stands a chance at being allowed a hearing. So far, House Speaker Michael Madigan has not given any indication on whether he plans to put the issue of legal weed on the schedule this session or if he will let it linger in political purgatory.
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If the bill does get brought up for debate, however, law enforcement agencies are expected to come out in protest. The Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police has said it does not support the concept of legalization, as they believe it to be a threat to public health and safety.
Nevertheless, the two lawmakers responsible for the measure (Illinois State Senator Heather Steans and Illinois State Representative Kelly Cassidy) say their intention this session is not to get the bill brought up for a vote. Instead, they want to get the issue on the table in an effort to draft a more passable version in 2018, reports the Chicago Tribune.
Additional reports show that House Speaker Madigan or Senate President John Cullerton has no interest in pursuing the marijuana debate until the beginning of next year.
“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.”
As it stands, eight states have legalized the leaf for recreational use.
Some of the latest national polls show the majority of the population (consistently around 60 percent) believes marijuana should be handled similar to alcohol and tobacco.