* But it should be a law…
State lawmakers introduced legislation Wednesday that would end marijuana prohibition in Illinois and establish a system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed for adult use.
The Senate bill, SB 316, is sponsored by Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Heather Steans (D-Chicago), while the House version, HB 2353, was presented by Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago). Each would make it legal for adults 21 and older to possess, grow, and purchase limited amounts of marijuana. The state would license and regulate businesses to cultivate, process, test, and sell marijuana to adults, and it would create and enforce strict health and safety regulations, such as testing and labeling requirements and restrictions on marketing.
“Marijuana prohibition is a quagmire that creates far more problems than it prevents,” Cassidy said. “Several states have adopted sensible alternatives to prohibition, and it is time for Illinois to develop its own exit strategy. Regulating marijuana and removing the criminal element from marijuana production and sales will make our communities safer.”
The bills propose taxing marijuana at a rate of $50 per ounce at the wholesale level, and retail sales would be subject to the state’s standard 6.25% sales tax. Based on current usage rates and the market price of marijuana being sold for adults’ use in Colorado, the Marijuana Policy Project estimates regulated marijuana sales could generate between $349 million and $699 million per year in new revenue for Illinois.
“Right now, all the money being spent on marijuana is going into the pockets of criminals and cartels,” Steans said. “In a regulated system, the money would go into the cash registers of licensed, taxpaying businesses. It would generate hundreds of millions of dollars per year in new revenue for our state. Prohibition is a financial hole in the ground, and we should stop throwing taxpayer dollars into it.”
Eight states have enacted laws regulating and taxing marijuana for adult use. A February Quinnipiac University poll found 59% of U.S. voters think marijuana should be made legal. Polls conducted by the Pew Research Center and Gallup last October found support at 57% and 60%, respectively.
“People are fed up with laws that punish adults for using a substance that is far less harmful than alcohol,” said Chris Lindsey, senior legislative counsel for the Marijuana Policy Project. “The time is right for the Illinois General Assembly to re-examine marijuana prohibition and consider the potential benefits of a thoughtfully crafted regulatory system. The sky has not fallen in the eight states that have made marijuana legal for adults. It’s time for Illinois to move past prohibition and stop missing out on the jobs and revenue other states are already getting.” [Emphasis added.]
* Press release…
To ensure that employees can observe their religious traditions without fear, State Sen. Jacqueline Collins has put forth a proposal prohibiting employers from discriminatory actions toward workers who wear religiously observant clothing or hair styles.
“In a letter to a synagogue, President George Washington once wrote of the new government he had fought to form that it ‘gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance,’” said Collins, D-Chicago. “This legislation is intended to show clearly that Illinois is a state that will protect its citizens. As our Jewish community faces an unprecedented wave of threats and our Muslim community is openly antagonized by the White House, protecting the right to worship is more important now than ever.”
The legislation would specifically disallow employers from taking disciplinary measures against employees for wearing their hair or clothing in ways that are in keeping with a religiously observant lifestyle.
Senate Bill 1697 passed out of the Senate Labor Committee this week and is scheduled to be considered by the full Senate.
* Press release…
Middle-class families would be able to keep more of their hard-earned money under legislation sponsored by state Rep. Chris Welch, D-Hillside, doubling the value of the Earned Income Tax Credit. The Welch-backed bill is a key element of an economic reform agenda introduced by House Democrats.
“It’s time that we put Illinois’s middle-class first and do what is best for them and their families,” said Welch. “The policies that the governor continues to promote are not creating jobs, are not growing the economy and are not uplifting the middle class. They are being squeezed out of existence, and it is time we refocus on them versus padding the profits of big businesses through this chaos the governor has created.”
Welch is sponsoring House Bill 2475, which would double the value of the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit over the course of five years, raising the value of the credit by 2 percent every year. Each 2 percent increase would put an estimated $44 million back in working families’ pockets. Additionally, the U.S. Conference of Mayors indicates that every $1 returned to taxpayers through the Earned Income Tax Credit generates between $1.50 and $2 in economic activity, helping local businesses grow.