Lawmakers Bet Economy On Legal Weed

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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Officials are proposing to fully legalize marijuana in Illinois, claiming it will pull in more than half a million dollars annually and make the state a trailblazer on pot policy in the Midwest.

Two Democrats representing areas in Chicago introduced the proposal last week in an effort to tackle the state’s multi-billion budget deficit. The bill would allow anyone 21 years and older to purchase, grow and posses up to an ounce of marijuana. The legislation places a $50-per-ounce wholesale tax on marijuana, which would pull in an estimated $350 to $700 million in revenue, reports Fox News.

Democratic Sen. Heather Steans and Rep. Kelly Cassidy, the authors of the bill, say 50 percent of the revenue will go straight into the state’s general fund, with the rest being distributed to public health and education initiatives.

“We’re talking about all sorts of ways of raising revenue,” Cassidy told Fox News. “We might as well be talking about this, too.”

The proposal is likely to face a major uphill battle to secure passage, but Cassidy, who previously sponsored 2014 legislation legalizing medical marijuana, is hopeful it will gain support on fiscal grounds. The lawmakers will not attempt to push the bill through in the current sessions, instead opting to host discussion forums to bolster support and bring attention to the issue, reports Peoria Public Radio.

Illinois would become the first state in the Midwest to legalize marijuana recreationally is the legislation succeeds.

Medical marijuana is legal in 28 states and Washington, D.C., where it is also legal for recreational use. Voters in Maine, Nevada, California and Massachusetts all approved measures to legalize marijuana for recreational use on Election Day. Nearly 20 percent of Americans now have access to legal pot.

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Steve Birr