* Fox Chicago…
Governor-elect JB Pritzker said Wednesday he wants to legalize recreational marijuana in Illinois almost immediately after being sworn in next year.
“That’s something we can work on nearly right away,” Pritzker told FOX 32’s Mike Flannery.
He also said he will look at vacating arrest records for those who have been convicted of crimes involving marijuana.
“I definitely want to look at all those arrest records. If we’re going to legalize recreational marijuana, then we shouldn’t have all the, what I think are, challenges in our criminal justice system, you know, still existing, people sitting in prison for things that are currently legal,” Pritzker said.
Sponsors plan to introduce a new legalization bill in January, and hope to get it passed before the session ends in May. The proposed measure would allow the commercial sale and regulation of marijuana, similar to alcohol, for adults 21 and over. There would probably be a six-month waiting period for officials to draw up rules before issuing licenses for growing and selling it. Sponsors say existing medical marijuana companies would likely get the first crack at sales.
Until the legislature convenes, sponsors say they’ll continue to meet with stakeholders, including Pritzker, to revise final details on a wide range of issues; among the most important is the rate at which the drug will be taxed.
State Rep. Kelly Cassidy and state Sen. Heather Steans, both Democrats from Chicago, would not specify what the rate will be, saying they will negotiate with Pritzker and others to craft legislation that will pass. But they cautioned against setting the tax rate too high, because that would hinder one of the main goals: to cut out the black market and related violent crime. […]
House Republican leader Jim Durkin said lawmakers should stop their rush toward legalization.
“I will never support legalization,” he said. “I don’t like how quickly we are moving. Illinois should not be part of this lab experiment. I see no societal value.”
* New study…
This report by the Illinois Economic Policy Institute (ILEPI) and the Project for Middle Class Renewal at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign finds that high taxpayer costs for law enforcement and cannabis-related incarceration would be reduced by legalizing recreational marijuana. In total, Illinois taxpayers would save $18.4 million annually in reduced incarceration costs, law enforcement spending, and legal fees from marijuana legalization. This revenue could be redirected to solve other crimes– such as homicides, robberies, and assaults.
The economy would also grow if Illinois were to legalize recreational marijuana. If marijuana were legalized, regulated, and taxed in Illinois, an estimated $1.6 billion would be sold in the state, in part due to regional tourism. At a 26.25 percent state excise tax on retail marijuana in addition to the 6.25 percent general sales tax, Illinois would:
• generate $525 million in new tax revenues, including $505 million for the state and $20 million for local governments– a move that credit rating agencies have called “credit positive;”
• create over 23,600 new jobs at more than 2,600 businesses in Illinois;
• boost the Illinois economy by $1 billion annually; and
• allow the state to make additional pension payments and vital public investments in infrastructure, K-12 public schools, college tuition assistance programs, and drug treatment and prevention programs
The benefits of legalization outweigh the social costs. While some legislators and constituents are concerned that legalizing recreational marijuana would increase consumption of other illicit drugs, increase motor vehicle crashes, and reduce workplace productivity, there is no evidence to support these claims. In fact, legalized cannabis has been found to reduce opioid use by as much as 33 percent, reduce traffic fatalities by as much as 11 percent, and have no effect on occupational accidents or rates of employee absenteeism. This is because marijuana consumption has not been found to increase after legalization.