Will Illinois legalize recreational marijuana? Lawmakers argue as deadline looms

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The effort to legalize recreational marijuana use in Illinois has slowed down considerably as both Republican and Democrat lawmakers believe they may not have legislation drafted by a May 31st deadline.

“It’s more than just saying it’s a legal boom. There’s a lot to it,” said State Rep. Maurice West (D-Rockford).

Lawmakers in Springfield are still trying to figure out what to do about legalizing the drug.

“There’s a lot of people who are for it, and there’s a lot of people who are against it,” West said.

Republican State Senator Andrew Chesney says there’s bipartisan opposition to legalization. He believes Illinois should not be in a rush to legalize cannabis, because of the potential drawbacks.

“Well, if you take a look at what it’s done in Colorado, homelessness has gone up, DUI’s have gone up. There’s been many, many factors that those who are in opposition of this would point to as the result of legalization of marijuana,” he said.

Chesney says the largest opposition comes from law enforcement.

“Our men and women in uniform are strongly in opposition to this,” he said. “We can all dig back to when we were all kids and we participated in D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education). This was a drug we were told not to partake in and now, to legalize it, when no successful state has done so, is going to be very, very problematic.”

West says, in the long run, legalizing the drug can lead to more minority business owners.

“To be licensed, to have your own dispensary, [the costs are up] in the thousands right now,” he said. “Black and brown people cannot afford that. Let’s be real. So, we need to bring down that license fee so that people who will eventually be able to get out of jail, the prison system, because it’s legalized now, let’s expunge their records and make them entrepreneurs.”

Chesney countered: “Do you want marijuana shops on every corner in every town across this state? My argument is: no.”

Governor J.B. Pritzker says he wants to have a bill to legalize marijuana on his desk, to be signed into law, by the end of session on May 31st.

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