In the November 2018 election, voters in Illinois elected Democrat J.B. Pritzker to the governor’s office. Democrats also won the majority in both the state house and senate. Pritzker made legalization a campaign issue, and he has been outspoken in his support of pursuing legalization once he enters office. In addition, he supports expungement.

As Fox 32 reports, Pritzker said after the election: “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.” As for the legislature, the Chicago Tribune reports: “a cannabis bill is widely expected to pass.” And as WGLT reports, the Republican minority in the legislature is “split” on legalization. While Jim Durkin, the Republican leader in the house, has said he would “never” support legalization, Sen. Jason Barickman (R-Bloomington), wants “a seat at the table” when legislators meet with industry representatives to write the legalization bill.  

Taxes and Fees

The details of a legalization bill have yet to be settled, including the tax, licensing, and fee structure; quality control; and expungement. Sponsors are working on a bill to prepare for January. The Tribune also reports that marijuana companies based in Illinois have “raised hundreds of millions of dollars” on the Canadian market. A study sponsored by the Illinois Economic Policy Institute and the Project for Middle Class Renewal and published in November 2018 offers numerous estimates on the financial benefits of legalization. For example: “In total, Illinois taxpayers would save $18.4 million annually in reduced incarceration costs, law enforcement spending, and legal fees from marijuana legalization.” And that “If marijuana were legalized, regulated, and taxed in Illinois, an estimated $1.6 billion would be sold in the state.” The report goes on to say that if marijuana were to have an excise tax rate of 26.25%, “in addition to the 6.25 percent general sales tax,” it would generate tax revenue for Illinois of more than half a billion dollars. The report goes on to say that legal marijuana would create “over 23,600 jobs at more than 2,600 businesses.”

Addressing Disparate Enforcement

In addition to increased tax revenue and new businesses, the report lists another reason for legalization. The report cites a study by the American Civil Liberties Union that found that in 2010 alone, Illinois police made 12,406 marijuana possession arrests, and that African Americans were 7.6 times more likely to be arrested than whites. Furthermore, “In Illinois…Blacks make up 15% of the population, but account for 58% of the marijuana possession arrests.” These arrests have led to millions in legal costs to the state and its citizens, and millions more in tax dollars spent on incarceration.

While the legalization bill for 2019 has yet to be presented, reports suggest that it will have a relatively high tax rate, will be liberal in terms of regulation and implementation, and will have a component to address disparate enforcement and expungement.

What do you think? What’s in store for legalization in Illinois? Leave a comment below.

state marijuana laws