Illinois Proposes Legalizing Marijuana

Rev. Alexander E. Sharp IL, Tax and Regulate

At a press conference on April 12, Illinois State Senator Heather Steans (D-7th) describes legislation that would legalize adult use of marijuana in Illinois. She is accompanied by bill co-sponsor Kelly Cassidy (D-14th) and the Coalition for a Safer Illinois.

CNDP staff participated in a press conference Wednesday morning to announce legislation that would legalize marijuana in Illinois. House Bill 2353 and Senate Bill 316 would permit adults to purchase up to one ounce of cannabis from a licensed store. All cannabis would be taxed at the state’s sale tax of 6.25%.

We introduced the newly formed Coalition for a Safer Illinois that will support the bills. Included are: Law Enforcement for Action Partnership (LEAP), Doctors for Cannabis Regulation (DFCR), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Illinois Chapter of the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), Students for a Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP), and the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP).

Eight states, including Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington, have passed similar measures. All have done so, however, by ballot initiative. This week, hearings are being held in Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Vermont to determine whether the legislatures in these states might approve marijuana legalization.

“Right now, all the money being spent on marijuana is going into the pockets of criminals and cartels,” said Sen. Heather Steans (D-7th), who is sponsoring the bill. “In a regulated system, the money would go into the cash registers of licensed, taxpaying businesses.” She estimates that the adult, non-medical cannabis market would bring in between $349 and $699 million in new tax revenue each year.

At least 30% of the new revenue would go to education, 10% would be spent on substance abuse treatment, and 10% would be used for a public safety campaign on the risks of alcohol, tobacco, and cannabis, and 50%would be allocated to state operating needs.

Bill sponsor Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-14th) says that “Regulating marijuana and removing the criminal element from marijuana production and sales will make our communities safer.”

Under the legislation, all cannabis controlled in the program would be tested for potency, and to ensure it is free from pesticides or other contaminants. Businesses would be required to label products, including test results and product warnings.

On April 19, a joint house and state appropriation committee will hold a subject matter hearing on the bills.

In June, 2014, Illinois passed legislation permitting marijuana to be used as medicine. Medical marijuana is now legal in 28 states, including Illinois. In July of last year, Governor Rauner signed a bill decriminalizing low-level marijuana possession. Under this law possession is a civil but not a criminal offense. 13 states have a similar measure.