Will Illinois be the next state to legalize marijuana? A proposed primary ballot referendum seems to indicate that there is a distinct possibility that it will be. And since Illinois already has a medical marijuana program and has decriminalized cannabis, the possibility isn’t so far-fetched.
The Pot Proposal
In March, voters in Cook County, Illinois might see a referendum on their primary election ballots. County Commissioners John Fritchey and Luis Arroyo have expressed interest in the possibility of legalized recreational weed. But they’re not just interested in legalizing cannabis in Cook County. They want to legalize it throughout the entire state of Illinois.
In a statement to CBS Chicago, Commissioner Fritchey said that the legalization of recreational cannabis would rake in an estimated $500 million for the state of Illinois in tax revenue. That sounds about right. After all, the first month of recreational weed sales in Nevada earned about $3.7 million in tax revenue. The numbers speak for themselves. In Colorado and Oregon, taxes from recreational cannabis sales are substantial as well. And the revenue from those taxes is going toward programs that improve the lives of state residents.
Financial gain aside, there is another pressing reason for legalizing recreational cannabis in the state of Illinois.
In 2016, state lawmakers decriminalized weed. So currently, if a police officer discovers that you are in possession of the herb, you will only need to pay a fine of $100-$200. That is if you only had under 10 grams at the time of the arrest.
But the problem with that is that those who pay a fine for weed possession will still have an arrest record. An arrest record for drug possession, even if the drug is cannabis, will follow you. It can—and often does—negatively impact your job prospects and chances of getting a loan. Additionally, the current system congests the courts and wastes the time and resources of police officers and court officials, who could be using that time to prevent and prosecute violent crime.
The Cannabis Commissioners
It wouldn’t be enough to keep their bid to legalize recreational weed local to their hometown of Chicago.
Rather than limiting their scope, Fritchey and Arroyo are taking it statewide. Well, kind of.
They have proposed a referendum on the matter—whether or not Illinois should legalize recreational weed—for the primary election in Cook County. The reefer referendum will specify that the minimum age for legal recreational cannabis consumption will be 21 years old.
In Cook County, recent polls indicate that the majority of county residents are in favor of recreational cannabis legalization. It’s worth noting that in Illinois, there is already a medical marijuana program. Fritchey actually acted as a co-sponsor of the bill that led to Illinois’ medical program. He was also instrumental in the removal of jail time for small possession charges.
Final Hit: Will Illinois Be The Next State To Legalize Marijuana?
Commissioners John Fritchey and Luis Arroyo will propose the referendum to the Cook County Board sometime in the next week. If the Board approves the proposal, then the reefer referendum will appear on the primary ballot in March.
So will Illinois be the next state to legalize marijuana? The verdict on that is still out. But we remain hopeful.