One aspect of legalizing cannabis that has begun to appeal to lawmakers is the tax revenue that the legal industry is able to generate. This has been one of the biggest reasons that legislators around the country are introducing legalization bills – even in states where they don’t likely stand a chance right now. In Illinois, there have been two proposals to legalize recreational use of cannabis this year, and the House and Senate Appropriations Committees held a joint hearing on the issue.
“Prohibition doesn’t work,” state Sen. Heather Steans, a Chicago Democrat, said.
Senator Steans and Representative Kelley Cassidy were the ones to introduce the bills that are now under consideration. Unfortunately Steans doesn’t think they will get to see a vote on either the House or Senate version before the end of this legislative session. On one hand it is disappointing to see the bills die in committee, but on the other hand they have opened up the conversation, making it possible to gauge the reactions of the other lawmakers who will be voting on the issue eventually.
Right now it appears that most lawmakers in the state are still uncertain over whether or not now is the right time for them to legalize adult use of cannabis, suggesting that they still have work to do on their medical marijuana program. Last year, the state moved towards decriminalization, making legalization, regulation and taxation the next logical step – but not all lawmakers are on board for such a big transition yet – even after hearing from Barbara Brohl, the director of the Colorado Department of Revenue, who boasted the $200 million in tax revenue the state was able to use for drug prevention and addiction treatment among other things, in addition to $43 million just for schools.
“Legalizing marijuana for recreational use is not something we should pursue at this time. The medical marijuana program is still unfolding and we need to fine-tune it before we can take the next step. I also don’t think this is where our time and energy needs to be spent right now. We need to be negotiating with the governor to get a balanced budget.” – Senator Bill Haine
So for now, it appears that regardless of the joint hearing where legalization was considered seriously for the first time in Illinois, they will not likely be passing any legislation this time around. However, lawmakers are at least prepared for the fact that legalization is something that people want to see happening and they know it’s something they must eventually consider – but it’s likely that each state contemplating legalization bills are also worried about being the first to pass legalization through legislature. Once one or two states have taken this leap, more lawmakers will probably jump on board for this type of legislation.