Is Marijuana the Answer to Illinois’ Debt Crisis?

With Illinois currently facing a budget crisis in the amount of $12.8 billion dollars, two lawmakers from Chicago think that marijuana could be the answer to the problem.  Senator Heather Steans and Representative Kelly Cassidy have proposed dual bills in the Senate and the House that lay the groundwork for the legalization of marijuana in Illinois and suggest that the revenue be used to dig away at the deficit.

mjMarijuana has been a long discussed and hot topic in the news recently; the road to recreational legalization is a long and winding one with many hoops to jump through and ladders to climb.  Here at Lauralaw we’ve followed the topic of marijuana for many years, from the recent decriminalization to a possible crackdown at the federal level and everything in between.  Now, with the proposal of these two bills, Illinois is trying to follow in the footsteps of Nevada and Washington and attempting to legalize recreational marijuana.  This past June legislators in Illinois proposed two bills that would legalize marijuana.  The bills piggyback off of a March bill proposed by Cassidy that creates a foundation for the legalization.  The original bill proposed in March suggests that there be a $50 per ounce tax on the drug at the wholesale level and that any purchase would be subject to the current Illinois tax rate.  The March bill also puts rules in place regarding the amount of marijuana a person can possess and grow at home.  Along with this, comes regulations for packaging the drug and the distribution by dispensaries.  Although the bill proposed in June may differ from the March bill, the lawmakers want their bill to have a similar structure so to appeal to the majority of those voting for it.

Currently in Illinois, marijuana is decriminalized and legal for medicinal purposes, with a few dispensaries located around the Chicagoland area.  The legalization of medicinal marijuana was started in 2015 with the Medical Cannabis Pilot Program (click here to view that blog post).  The decriminalization happened soon after, making it a $100-$200 ticket to carry anything less than 10 grams.  Now, following along with the natural progression of things, Illinois lawmakers are keeping up with the times and want it completely legalized.  There are currently 8 states that allow for the recreational use of marijuana, with Nevada being the most recent state to adopt these laws.  But, marijuana is still illegal at the federal level and if lawmakers at this level so choose they can enforce these laws. 

There are still many challenges that these two lawmakers face to get the bills to pass and it may be tougher than most people think.  Many polls show that a majority of people are in favor of legalization of marijuana.  The hard part is getting those in the legislator to vote this way.  Governor Rauner recently blocked bills using his veto power that were designed to expand the use of medical marijuana.  Legalizing marijuana in Illinois may prove a challenge if the right structures aren’t laid in place by the bills.  But, the two lawmakers from Chicago are holding hearings and listening to other senators from states where marijuana legalization has passed and hope that the bills will pass in Illinois as well.  Considering the huge debt that Illinois currently faces, this may be the only hope.

The bill goes for vote in January once the legislature is back in session.  We’ll keep you posted on anymore marijuana updates and other current law passages as well.


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