CHICAGO, March 22 Illinois would legalize
marijuana for recreational use by adults and tax it to raise at
least $350 million a year for the cash-strapped state under
legislation introduced on Wednesday.
Two Democratic lawmakers sponsoring the bills said the
measures pending before the House and Senate would allow law
enforcement to focus on other crimes and enable the state to
create a system for regulating and taxing marijuana sales.
Adults aged 21 and older would be able to possess, grow, and
purchase limited amounts of marijuana, under the legislation.
Businesses cultivating, processing, testing and selling pot
would be licensed and regulated by the state, which would also
impose labeling requirements and marketing restrictions.
State Senator Heather Steans, one of the sponsors, said
money would flow to licensed, taxpaying businesses instead of to
"It would generate hundreds of millions of dollars per year
in new revenue for our state," Steans said in a statement.
"Prohibition is a financial hole in the ground, and we should
stop throwing taxpayer dollars into it.”
The fifth-largest U.S. state is limping through a second
straight fiscal year without a complete budget due to an ongoing
impasse between its Republican governor and Democrats who
control the legislature.
Illinois' unpaid bills, a barometer of its deep financial
problems, hit an all-time high of $12.8 billion last week.
Marijuana remains illegal under federal law, but it has been
legalized for recreational use in eight states, including
Washington, Colorado and California, as well as the District of
Columbia. Last year, legal sales reached $7 billion and
generated half a billion dollars in sales taxes.
Eleni Demertzis, a spokeswoman for Illinois Governor Bruce
Rauner, said the marijuana measures are under review.
If the legislation is enacted, Illinois could raise between
$349 million and $699 million annually based on usage rates and
prices in Colorado, which began legalized adult marijuana sales
in 2014, according to advocacy group the Marijuana Policy
The Illinois legislation would impose a $50 per ounce tax at
the wholesale level, while sales to the public would be subject
to the state's 6.25 percent sales tax. Marijuana possession
would be limited to 28 grams and five plants per adult resident.
Nonresidents could possess only 14 grams.
An Illinois law creating a medical cannabis pilot program
went into effect in 2013.
(Reporting by Karen Pierog; Editing by Matthew Lewis)