New Illinois Governor Plans to Push for Recreational Cannabis Legalization

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JB Pritzker, Illinois’ governor elect, intends to legalize recreational cannabis in the state as one of his top priorities.

With a plethora of data, Pritzker says that legalizing cannabis will reform the opioid epidemic, balance the state’s budget with an increase in tax revenue, and help improve the criminal justice system by reducing incarceration for cannabis offenses in the state.

Over the last two years, Illinois has had the advantage of holding hearings and studying issues of what works and doesn’t work in other states where recreational cannabis is legal. To date, 10 states have legalized recreational use and have seen millions of dollars from the tax revenue of cannabis. From school construction and new education, to programs treating alcoholism and drug use, these new tax dollars are funding a number of programs and creating more career opportunities.

Pritzker stated, “There are revenue opportunities for the state like legalizing marijuana and that has the opportunity to bring $350 million to $700 million in revenue maybe as much as $1 billion, not to mention the jobs that will be created with dispensaries and production.”

Pritzker, along with sponsors, plans to move forward in introducing a bill that legalizes recreational cannabis once he is sworn in next year. They hope the bill will pass as soon as May but are aware of a likely 6-month waiting period for licenses to be issued by officials. However, he can’t do it alone. The Illinois legislature plays a big role in the future of recreational use.

Unlike states that have legalized recreational cannabis by popular vote, it’s up to the state lawmakers to have the final say. In a recent poll conducted by the Paul Simon Policy Institute, 66% of polled voters favor legalization.

However, not everyone’s on board with legalization.House Republican leader, Jim Durkin, is against legalization and feels the state should focus more on resolving the state’s financial hardships with pension reform and controlled spending.

Durkin said, “To me [legalization] is not the way in which we should deal with our problems.” He feels that by relying on cannabis to be the “guiding light” for the state is a step in the wrong direction and he sees “no societal value.”Despite Durkin’s negative opinion, recent reports are praising cannabis for its ability to benefit a wide variety of health conditions.

It’s no doubt that the legal cannabis industry has undeniable success. In America alone, estimated revenue was between $5.8 billion and $6.6 billion just last year. Those numbers could easily more than triple by the year 2022.

Pritzker said, “If we can grow jobs and bring businesses to the state, we’ll bring revenue to the state without raising any taxes, and second are efficiencies we can bring to state government that haven’t been brought before.”

Time will tell if Illinois is ready to join the states who have fully decriminalized and legalized cannabis.

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Byline: Joy Hughes is a freelance writer who covers topics on health, nutrition, CBD, cannabis, and more.

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