US states that fully legalized cannabis are benefiting from reduced crime rates and a huge upswing in economic activity. Case in point: the legal cannabis industry in Colorado brought in a whopping $2.4 billion and 18,015 full-time jobs to the state in 2015 (according to a report from the Marijuana Policy Group).
In fact, the emerging sector is outperforming roughly 90 percent of other industries in the state!
Colorado’s success has caught the attention of other states in the country, including Illinois. Currently, the state is exploring unconventional methods to improve the local economy. One of these options is legalizing cannabis on a recreational level. Chicago officials predict that the move could generate up to $699 million for the state – per year. Establishing legal cannabis regulations in Illinois would allow money generated from sales and licensing to go to taxpaying businesses, instead of out-of-town pushers on the streets.
“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,”
said State Sen. Heather Steans.
Legislators plan to look further into fully legalizing the plant next week, starting with a subject matter hearing on April 19. Specifically, local officials will be dissecting the proposal of Senate Bill 316 and amendments to House Bill 2353. From a long-term perspective, the bills are designed to underpin and streamline the state’s legal cannabis laws.
Under the proposals, adults over the age of 21 are allowed to consume, grow, purchase and hold regulated amounts of cannabis. Furthermore, the legislation recommends implementing taxes for wholesale transactions, at a rate of $50 per ounce. For individuals interested in growing cannabis for personal use, the bills, which were introduced to the state house and senate last month, would allow the cultivation of up to five plants. Possession is limited to 28 grams per individual under the proposals.
Unlike the state of Florida, where legislators and local residents can’t agree on the implementation of medicinal cannabis laws, both groups – Illinois state reps and residents – seem to support cannabis legalization. According to Representative Kelly Cassidy, around 66 percent of local voters favor legalization. Cops and law enforcement groups also carry similar views, when it comes to the effects of legalization on reducing criminal activity.
“If you take that profit margin away from street gangs and drug cartels and put into a controlled and regulated business, everyone would benefit,”
said Brian Gaughan, a retired police officer and a member of the Law Enforcement Action Partnership.
Illinois lawmakers are taking a slow, cautious approach to their legislation efforts in the state to ensure guidelines are thoroughly explored and implemented. Officials will look to states with legal cannabis laws, as they decide on a set of best practices and recommendations for the nascent industry.
“The bill that has been introduced reflects some of the lessons learned in other states that have already gone all the way to tax and regulate, but we also want to have a really thorough and thoughtful conversation,” said Cassidy.