Lawmakers Debate Marijuana Legalization

Jul 31, 2017

Some lawmakers say legalizing recreational marijuana should be on the horizon for Illinois, but they admit there are still details to work out.

Democratic State Sen. Heather Steans, of Chicago, introduced a measure earlier this year that would allow those 21 and older to possess, grow and purchase limited amounts of the drug. She says it would garner at least $350 million in tax revenue annually. Steans says she'd want the gains to go toward regulatory oversight, plus: "Substance abuse treatment and prevention, certainly a public awareness campaign against illegal drug use," Steans said. "Finally, I think education makes a lot of sense."

Credit Mel Evans / AP Photo

Of course the overall idea has many opponents, like the conservative Illinois Family Institute. David Smith, executive director, says the assertion that legalization would be worth potential profits is "farfetched."

 Smith also believes recreational marijuana use is a threat to public health and safety.  "We really don't think it's a good idea to have or encourage a more inebriated society. We don't need more inebriated, intoxicated citizens on the street," Smith said. 

Supporters say legalizing pot would allow police to focus on violent crime.  

Steans says she'll be gathering insight to re-draft the measure and introduce it again in the year ahead.