Illinois lawmakers introduce bill to legalize recreational marijuana for adults

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Wednesday, March 22, 2017
In this Sept. 15, 2015 file photo, marijuana grows at the Ataraxia medical marijuana cultivation center in Albion, IL.

SPRNIGFIELD, Ill. (WLS) -- Illinois State Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago) and Illinois State Representative Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago) introduced identical legislation Wednesday in both General Assembly chambers to legalize and tax recreational marijuana for adults in the state.

Senate Bill 316 and House Bill 2353 would legalize the possession of up to 28 grams of marijuana and allow facilities to sell marijuana products for adults over 21 and tax those sales "in a manner similar to alcohol."

The bill also calls for marijuana to be regulated in similar ways as alcohol, thus requiring purchasers to show proof of age, sales to anyone under 21 would be illegal, driving under the influence would remain a crime and any marijuana sold in the state would be subject to testing, labeling and regulation as a consumer protection measure.

Steans also said the taxes collected from legal marijuana sales would help plug holes in the state budget.

"Legalizing and taxing marijuana will not and should not solve all of our budget woes, but it should be a part of the conversation about resolving Illinois' worsening budget problems. Every bit of new revenue will help to close the governor's $5 billion budget gap," she said.

Steans pointed to data showing Oregon collected more than $60 million in new tax revenue from the sale of marijuana, and Colorado, which legalized recreational marijuana in 2012, collected more than $140 million in 2016 from legal marijuana sales.

In 2016 Steans introduced legislation to decriminalize possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana, which has since become law.

Sale and use of recreational marijuana is now legal in seven states and Washington, D.C. Illinois began its medical marijuana pilot program in 2013.