Fritchey plans legal pot referendum on March ballot

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Cook County Commissioner John Fritchey wants voters to weigh in on whether Illinois should legalize weed. | Keith Hale~Sun-Times, File

Cook County Commissioner John Fritchey, D-Chicago, announced plans Tuesday to place an advisory referendum on the March 20 ballot that would allow county voters to weigh in on whether the state should legalize recreational marijuana for adults 21 and older.

Fritchey, citing growing support, estimated that the measure could bring in between $350 and $700 million at the state level, creating new revenue streams for the state and freeing up police, courts, state’s attorneys and public defenders to focus on serious offenses.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle supports the measure.

“There are numerous strong arguments in support of a responsible framework for legalization of recreational use of marijuana,” Fritchey said. “It’s about unclogging our criminal justice system with cases that are consistently dropped. It’s about having a common sense policy in place that recognizes that the so-called ‘war on drugs’ has been a failure on every front.”

Last month, Fritchey introduced a similar measure, calling on the Illinois General Assembly to pass Senate Bill 316 and House Bill 2353 that would establish a path forward for marijuana “legalization, regulation and taxation.” Fritchey was also involved in legislation that passed in 2013.

So far there are 11 sponsors on the resolution, Fritchey said, and it will be formally introduced at the board’s Nov. 15 meeting. A vote on the measure will follow at the Dec. 13 meeting.

“My experience on this issue and on the legislative process has helped me understand how to achieve results,” Fritchey said. “My hope here is to get a significant result in changing Illinois policy for the better for everybody.”

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