Cannabis advocates have been pushing for cannabis legalization in Illinois for a long time, but the effort has really picked up steam this year. Famous cannabis advocate Rick Steves recently spoke at a hearing in Illinois in front of lawmakers expressing his support for legalization. A number of recent media articles have discussed and debated Illinois’ chances of legalizing marijuana.
With 8 states having already legalized marijuana for adult use (and Washington D.C.), and a number of states looking like they have a great chance of legalizing marijuana in 2018, it’s very logical to explore legalization’s chances in Illinois. A victory in Illinois would be huge considering that it is the 5th most populated state in America. A poll from earlier this year found that 66% of poll participants support legalizing marijuana in Illinois.
Considering what it took to legalize medical marijuana in Illinois, and the subsequent effort to get the medical marijuana program off the ground, I am hesitant to say that Illinois has a great chance of legalizing marijuana in the near future. With that being said, I would LOVE to see it happen. Legalization is working in the states that have voted to end marijuana prohibition, and it would work in Illinois too. Cook County, Illinois may see a marijuana legalization question on an upcoming ballot. Per Chicago Tribune:
Cook County commissioners on Wednesday will decide whether to put on the ballot a question asking voters if recreational marijuana use by people 21 and older should be legalized.
The referendum is advisory only, so weed would not become legal if the question is approved in the March 20 primary. But a strong showing could help state lawmakers make their case for marijuana legalization in Springfield.
As the cited article touches on, the referendum would be non-binding. But I think that it would still be significant if it was placed on the March 20 primary ballot, and even more significant if it was approved by voters. As I always say, if you can’t achieve reform at the state level, take the battle to the local level. Each local victory builds momentum for a state-level victory.
If the referendum question is placed on the ballot and it passes, especially by a huge margin, it would send a message to lawmakers that marijuana legalization is something that should occur in Illinois. Some level of support exists in Illinois’ Legislature for such a public policy change, but unfortunately not enough to get legalization up for a vote. I have to assume there are many lawmakers that would be open to the idea, but they need to be firmly nudged in the right direction. A successful vote in Cook County could be just what some of those types of lawmakers need in order to come out publicly in support of getting Illinois on the right side of history.