* From the Illinois Policy Institute’s news service…
Add a Republican senator from Central Illinois to the growing list of Illinois lawmakers who say the state should legalize recreational marijuana.
State Sen. Jason Barickman, R-Bloomington, says he is ready to support legal, recreational marijuana if the law is written correctly.
“I think fiscal conservatives need to be in this debate,” Barickman said Tuesday. “It is inevitable that this is going to happen. Our opportunity is either to sit on the sidelines and watch how it happens, and not influence the outcome or put ourselves at the negotiating table.”
Barickman says that way he can try and shape how a legal, recreational marijuana program will work. And he can shape how the hundreds of millions of dollars that Illinois could see in new taxes is spent.
“I would like to see these revenues pay down our backlog of bills, our debt, our pension liabilities,” Barickman said. “I’d like to see us move our income tax rates.”
Industry experts say legal, recreational marijuana in Illinois could be worth as much as $700 million a year.
Barickman said he’s ready to vote yes for legal marijuana, but not to co-sponsor the plan. He expects other Republicans to also endorse marijuana, and he hopes Gov. Bruce Rauner changes his mind.
* Public Radio…
Barickman said for him recreational use of cannabis is not a moral issue. And it is not in the same realm as the opioid epidemic as a health concern. He said the state already has a template of laws to draw on regarding alcohol use, transportation, and youth use of alcohol that could be adapted to marijuana.
“Rather than flippantly dismissing this idea, the governor ought to study it further, hear from Republicans around the state, and others, and re-evaluate the position that he has taken on this issue,” said Barickman. […]
“I come as a fiscal conservative who recognizes we need to broaden our tax base. This is an issue that we have talked about through our budget stalemate of the last few years. This is an opportunity to broaden our tax base and hold, if not reduce, the individual income tax rates that today we’re struggling with,” said Barickman. […]
Some advocates have said this year is too soon for a bill to be ready to pass. Barickman said he’s not sure exactly when one will. He said he would be surprised if it were later than 2019. Eight states already have legalized recreational use of marijuana and more are considering proposals.