Recreational marijuana bill to be filed in Springfield next week, as opposition mounts
After much anticipation and behind the scenes discussion, a plan to decriminalize recreational marijuana in Illinois is expected to be filed in Springfield next week. Here's what it is likely to contain, and why opposition is mounting.
State Sen. Heather Steans tells the Center for Illinois Politics that she’s “close to being on track” and plans to file “tightly regulated” recreational marijuana legislation at the end of the upcoming week.
Lawmakers return to Springfield Tuesday from their annual two-week spring break.
The highly anticipated legislation, which, if passed, would make Illinois the eleventh state in the nation to decriminalize adult recreational marijuana use, is being sponsored by Steans and state Rep. Kelly Cassidy. Both women are Chicago Democrats.
But unlike states including Washington, California and Massachusetts, which legalized recreational marijuana by state ballot initiatives, Illinois is “starting in a really different place,” Steans said.
Building off the state’s 2013 medical marijuana pilot program, Steans said her legislation aims to keep a recreational use program “tightly regulated.”
“We think we can be a model in adult use, with products that don’t get diverted out of the legal system (and into the black market),” Steans said.
“I talk to police chiefs around the state that find product being sold here from Washington, California. We have a really well secure program here right now and want to keep that,” she said.
She said the drafting of the legislation has also involved a lot of time “to make sure we have real diversity and equity” in terms of encouraging low income and minority residents to take part in the recreational marijuana industry. Steans says it’s one way to begin “righting wrongs of prohibition” after drug enforcement policies produced unequal outcomes among racial groups.
New Gov. J.B. Pritzker supports legalization, and his budget office estimates issuing licenses to retailers and cultivators could bring in $170 million in the upcoming budget year that begins in July. House Speaker Michael Madigan has also expressed his support, but has not weighed in on the details of any plan, his spokesman said.
But about 60 lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are signing onto state Rep. Marty Moylan’s Resolution calling for the state to slow down the process “so that lawmakers, stakeholders, and experts alike have the chance to consider the societal impact of legalization and examine all the data from other states that have passed similar legislation.” The resolution comes after Moylan, a Des Plaines Democrat earlier this spring polled members of his independent-voting, Northwest suburban district on the issue.
“The proponents are trying to pull a con game on the state of Illinois,” he said Thursday. "I have almost more than 60 people who’ve signed on is because nobody else's talking about what the harmful effects are.” Moylan said he’s been talking to nurses and law enforcement officials “on the ground” in states that have legalized recreational use to help gather information.
“The reason I got this resolution is to slow down and have time for all the members to absorb the information.”
The Center for Illinois Politics is preparing an analysis of the implementation and revenue generated from legalizing recreational marijuana in other states. Read that report on Sunday.
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