Last night, Michigan became the first Midwestern state to legalize recreational cannabis use, but it won't be alone for long if Illinois Governor-elect J.B. Pritzker (D) gets his way. The new top lawmaker in the Prairie State has pledged to make marijuana reform a central part of his gubernatorial mandate.
"We can begin by immediately removing one area of racial injustice in our criminal justice system," then-candidate Pritzker said following his victory in the Illinois primary earlier this year. "Let's legalize, tax and regulate marijuana."
That message essentially drew a major battle line between him and incumbent Bruce Rauner (R), who opposed recreational cannabis before and during the 2018 gubernatorial campaign.
“I do not support legalizing marijuana," Governor Rauner said last November. "I think that’s a mistake. You know there’s a massive, human experiment going on in Colorado, and California, other places. We should see how that’s impacted lives and addiction and hurt young people before we make any decision about it here."
It's too early to determine if cannabis legalization was a deciding factor in the victory for Pritzker, who beat Rauner by more than 500,000 votes. But what is certain is that the Midwestern state desperately wanted a regime change. "Illinois Republicans faced their biggest electoral wipeout since after the 2006 election," according to the Chicago Tribune.
So cannabis policy is just one of many ways in which politics will be done differently in Illinois moving forward.