States Push Forward On Marijuana Legalization Despite Federal Uncertainty

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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Illinois is the latest state plowing ahead with legislation to legalize recreational marijuana despite uncertainty over the current federal stance on local pot laws.

Proponents of legalization claim 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 in March 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 poses up to an ounce of marijuana, reports CBS Chicago.

Officials in other states are also moving forward on plans to implement recreational marijuana legalization despite rhetoric from the Trump administration and Attorney General Jeff Sessions signaling a possible federal crackdown. The potential for huge revenue is fueling increased bipartisan support for legalization measures throughout the U.S.

“We estimate that doing it this way, can generate revenues up to $350-million and $700-million, so it’d be given the way we are right now in the state, we think talking about this revenue potential is timely and important,” Chicago State Senator Heather Steans told CBS Chicago.

The legislation places a $50-per-ounce wholesale tax on marijuana. Steans and Democratic State 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.

Lawmakers in Michigan, where medical marijuana is already thriving, are attempting to win approval for a 2018 ballot referendum putting the question of full legalization to the voters. Officials say if the effort succeeds revenue from both programs will exceed $1 billion.

Momentum continues to propel recreational legalization forward despite the air of uncertainty at the federal level. Sessions, a staunch opponent of legalization, is currently reviewing federal marijuana policy, provoking anxieties within the industry.

Representatives for the administration previously made a distinction between medical and recreational marijuana, signaling a crackdown would focus on the latter, but it remains unclear how aggressive the administration will ultimately be on the issue.

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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