Pubdate: Thu, 01 Mar 2018
Source: Chicago Tribune (IL)
Copyright: 2018 Chicago Tribune Company
Author: Monique Garcia


The state Senate on Thursday voted to ask on the November ballot
whether recreational use of marijuana should be legalized and taxed in

The ballot question would be only advisory, so even if voters approve,
lawmakers still would have to act.

Sponsoring Sen. Bill Cunningham, D-Chicago, said it is important to
poll the public because some lawmakers are already working to legalize
recreational marijuana use for people over 21. He noted that in most
states that allow recreational use, it was done by voters expressing
support in the ballot box.

"I think it well advised for us as members of the Illinois General
Assembly, before we possibly take a vote on this issue, to find out
what our voters think. As I said, it's been done in virtually every
other state that has considered this questions," Cunningham said.

The measure cleared the Senate on a 37-13 vote, sending it to the
House. State Sen. Heather Steans, who is sponsoring a bill to legalize
recreational use, voted "present."

"I didn't want to do anything to make it seem like I am not
negotiating in good faith on the bill I am trying to pass," she said
following the vote.

Republican Sen. Chris Nybo of Elmhurst opposed the measure, saying it
was "not because of the merits" of the idea. "I just think that given
what the state of Illinois is facing there are so many other important
issues we should be putting before our citizens," he said.

Nybo ticked off items he contended should be on the November ballot,
such as asking voters how the state should deal with its massive
pension debt and high property taxes. Sen. Kyle McCarter, R-Lebanon,
suggested voters should be asked if lawmakers should be subject to
term limits.

The vote on Thursday comes as two legalization bills remain in limbo
in the House and Senate. Supporters say legal marijuana could generate
millions in tax revenue, reduce prison populations and allow law
enforcement agencies to focus on other crimes. But it's unclear
whether they'll push forward this year.

Gov. Bruce Rauner has said legalizing it would be a mistake, and
police officials have also raised concerns.

Cook County voters already will get to weigh in on marijuana this
month. Commissioners last year voted to put that question on the
primary ballot.
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