Illinois could become the first midwest state to legalize the recreational use of marijuana.
The marijuana momentum continues in Illinois. In 2013, the Prairie State legalized medical marijuana. Last year, Illinois took reform even further by decriminalizing marijuana. Currently, those caught with 10 grams or less of marijuana face a civil citation and a fine that ranges from $100 to $200.
Now Illinois may take reform even further. Two bills to legalize recreational marijuana have been introduced in each chamber of the Illinois government. Senator Heather Steans has introduced Senate bill 316 and Representative Kelly Cassidy has introduced House Bill 2353.
The bills call for legalizing possession of up to one ounce of marijuana for adults 21 and over. Cultivation of up to 5 plants would also be legal under the bills.
Marijuana would be taxed at a rate of $50 per ounce wholesale. Illinois would also apply the standard 6.25 percent state sales tax.
“If we bring this out in the open, we can generate revenue legally rather than for the black market,” Senator Steans said.
Steans was not implying that legal marijuana would be a silver bullet, but it could be a great start to alleviating Illinois’ budget shortfall.
“Legalizing and taxing marijuana will not and should not solve all of our budget woes, but it should be a part of the conversation about resolving Illinois’ worsening budget problems. Every bit of new revenue will help to close the governor’s $5 billion budget gap,” Steans said.
Marijuana Policy Project, a national advocacy group, estimates that marijuana sales in Illinois could generate about $350 million to $700 million per year. The group was supportive of the bills submitted. “I think this does a good job of being very reasonable,” Illinois NORML Executive Director Dan Linn said. “It’s a realistic approach.”
Steans and Cassidy do not plan to call the bill for a vote during the current legislative session. They plan to hold hearings on the issue and are looking to generate support for a finalized bill next year.