Pols high on marijuana legalization hope to clear the air on 4/20 pot ‘holiday’
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Democrat J.B. Pritzker has vowed he’ll sign legislation to legalize marijuana should he win the governor’s seat — that is, if it gets to his desk.
And on Friday, April 20 — a day marijuana fans celebrate as their annual “holiday” — Pritzker’s campaign plans to blast out an e-mail, video and other social media efforts to push for legalization.
In January, Pritzker stood outside an Andersonville dispensary in blustery weather to signal legalization would be a big centerpiece to his campaign for governor.
Pritzker has emphasized the benefits to minorities of pot legalization on both economic and criminal justice reform grounds. He also said he would review and commute the sentences of people incarcerated for marijuana offenses.
Pritzker has said he believes legalization could bring in between $350 million and $700 million in revenue, a figure anti-marijuana groups dispute.
On Thursday, Healthy & Productive Illinois, a “marijuana policy group” that has argued against legalization, released its own study. The group argues it would cost the state $670.5 million a year to legalize pot, outweighing annual estimated tax revenue projections of about $566 million.
They’re not the only ones not joining the party. Gov. Bruce Rauner told a Downstate TV station in December that it would be a “mistake” to legalize marijuana in Illinois. The Republican governor has, in the past, said he wants more studies on the “ramifications” in states that have legalized the drug.
“I do not support legalizing marijuana. I think that’s a mistake. You know there’s a massive, human experiment going on in Colorado, and California, other places. We should see how that’s impacted lives and addiction and hurt young people before we make any decision about it here,” Rauner said in an interview on WSIL in Marion. “I do not support legalizing marijuana.”
Still, Rauner instituted a medical marijuana pilot program that started doling out weed to patients in 2015. And Rauner last year signed a bill that decriminalized the possession of 10 grams or less of marijuana, making it a ticketable offense subject to fines of $100 to $200.
State Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago, is a key sponsor of legislation to legalize marijuana and has said it will be a “longterm” process — meaning proponents would be unlikely to attempt passage until 2019 — when Democrats hope Illinois will see a new governor to replace Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner.
Steans believes “prohibition isn’t working.”
“Legalizing cannabis will create a safe, comprehensive system that can reduce deaths from opioid overdoses and synthetic marijuana and generate revenue for better enforcement, treatment and prevention,” Steans said on Thursday.
On Wednesday the Illinois House voted to approve legislation that would permit infused medical marijuana to be administered to students by parents in elementary and secondary schools. It came after parents of an 11-year-old Schaumburg student sued to allow their daughter — who suffered seizures as the result of chemotherapy — to use medical marijuana on school grounds. It must still pass the Illinois Senate.