When Illinois lawmakers return to work tomorrow after their two-week break, they could find a new cannabis legalization bill waiting for their review. Illinois Senator Heather Steans (D) says she is close to finalizing the details of a new bill to legalize recreational cannabis in the Prairie State. Steans plans to file the new legislation "by the end of April or very early May."
And she won't have a hard time convincing the state's top lawmaker to get on board with marijuana reform. Cannabis legalization was a key campaign promise for Illinois Governor JB Pritzker (D), whose current budget proposal contains $170 million in new revenue from licensing cultivators and dispensaries. He has previously stated he would like to see legalization passed before the end of the spring legislative session.
Support seems to be strong from other legislative leaders as well, with House Majority Leader Gregory Harris (D) predicting the bill will pass once it goes up for a vote. And Steans believes she has enough votes in the state Senate as well.
"I never like to presume how folks are going to vote. But yes, we've been working with lots of the members from various caucuses, hoping to get something we think is reasonable."
However, the bill will face at least some pushback from opponents who claim that cannabis legalization will contribute to the state's substance abuse issues.
"If you legalize it, usage is going to go up. That's been the experience of all the other states that have done this," said Senator Dale Righter (R). "When usage goes up, abuse will go up, and there will be more people landing on the doorsteps of drug treatment providers across this state—drug treatment providers who will tell you we have more people than we can serve and we do not have enough money."
Whether those scare tactics will rally enough dissenting votes to defeat legalization has yet to be seen. If successful, the bill would make Illinois the 11th state to legalize recreational cannabis and only the second state in the Midwest to allow adult use.