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Steans seeks to mend budget woes by legalizing marijuana

legal marijuanaCHICAGO – Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago) seeks to create a new revenue source for the State of Illinois by legalizing and taxing recreational marijuana. Senate Bill 316 legalizes the possession of up to 28 grams of marijuana and will allow facilities to sell marijuana products.

“Right now, all the money being spent on marijuana is going into the pockets of criminals and cartels,” Steans said. “In a regulated system, the money would go into the cash registers of licensed, taxpaying businesses. It would generate hundreds of millions of dollars per year in new revenue for our state. Prohibition is a financial hole in the ground, and we should stop throwing taxpayer dollars into it.”

 

Legalizing recreational marijuana has swept the nation. During this past election, voters from coast to coast passed ballot initiatives to legalize its use, making recreational marijuana now legal in seven states and Washington, D.C.

“It is clear that individuals across the nation are receptive to purchasing marijuana through a legal market,” Steans said. “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.”

Identical legislation has been introduced in the House by Representative Kelly Cassidy.

In 2016, the state of Oregon collected more than $60 million in new revenue from a tax on marijuana – more than six times what the Oregon Liquor Control Commission expected for the 2015-2017 budget period. In Colorado, which legalized marijuana in 2012, the state collected more than $140 million in 2016 from taxes on legal marijuana sales.

Though recreational sales in Colorado began in 2014, according to the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey, marijuana consumption by teens has not increased since recreational marijuana was legalized.

Increasingly, researchers are finding that marijuana can be an effective alternative to opioids for pain management. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, opioids killed more than 33,000 individuals in 2015 alone. In Illinois, 75 percent of drug overdoses in 2015 involved opioids according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

“I believe that we should explore all options to ending the opioid epidemic,” Steans said. “I think that by legalizing marijuana, we could see a drop in opioid overuse.”

Marijuana has also been used to treat patients with chronic pain, cancer, epilepsy and some psychiatric conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder.

Last year, legislation introduced by Senator Steans to decriminalize possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana became law.

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