With the passing of SB 2275 by the Senate, Medicine Man Technologies is excited to see recreational cannabis in Illinois take steps toward realization. The bill will now be handed to the state’s House of Representatives for further deliberation, and if approved, would put an advisory referendum on the November ballot, posing the following question to voters:
“Do you support the legalization of possession and use of marijuana by persons who are at least 21 years of age, subject to regulation and taxation that is similar to the regulation and taxation of tobacco and alcohol?”
While the outcome would not be binding, it will give lawmakers a better idea of whether or not their constituents want to see recreational cannabis in Illinois made legal. A decisive favorable vote could be the impetus needed for lawmakers to end prohibition as early as 2019. The state’s legislature has already decriminalized cannabis with a 2016 law that treats possessing up to 10 grams (for personal use) as a citation with fines of $100 to $200. Previously, it was a Class B misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and $1,500 in fines.
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Bill Cunningham, stated “The debate over marijuana legalization is continuing to lead many states to consider various ideas and changes to current laws. Asking the people of Illinois how they feel about the subject can help determine which path we take as legislators.”
What’s Next? It’s All About the Elections
While SB 2275 will appear on the ballot in November if it passes in the House, a similarly worded referendum is already on the ballot for this month’s primaries in Cook County. As the most populous county, which includes Chicago and nearly half of the state’s residents, a clear “yes” vote for legalizing recreational cannabis in Illinois could prove influential for lawmakers. The question being posed:
“Shall the State of Illinois legalize the cultivation, manufacture, distribution, testing, and sale of marijuana and marijuana products for recreational use by adults 21 and older subject to state regulation, taxation and local ordinance?”
Of course, even if voters overwhelmingly support ending cannabis prohibition, the state’s legislature may include all new faces when it comes time to deliberate and implement a program. In fact, during the 2018 midterms, all 118 seats in the state’s House of Representatives will be up for grabs. Voters will also decide on every executive office, including governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state and more.
The most pivotal of races will be for governor as Republican incumbent, Gov. Bruce Rauner, seeks a second term. If re-elected, any law seeking to legalize recreational cannabis will likely be vetoed. In a statement to the media, Gov. Rauner said, “Recreational marijuana, just for personal use, I think is a huge experiment…Colorado has legalized it. California just legalized it. And what I’ve recommended is, ‘Let’s not legalize it in Illinois now. Let’s watch what’s happening in these other states and learn.'”
Southern Illinois University’s Simon Poll™
So, how likely is a second term for Gov. Rauner and what’s the alternative? According to the recently released Simon Poll, Illinois may cut the Republican’s tenure short. While the governor holds a 51% to 31% lead over his only Republican challenger, Jeanne Ives, a state representative against legalization, the real challenge will come from a crowded Democrat race.
Currently, there are 6 Democrats vying for governor. Poll leaders include J.B. Pritzker, a billionaire and venture capitalist whose family owns the Hyatt hotel chain. Pritzker, who was active in Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign bid, has stated that he is in favor of legalizing and taxing recreational cannabis in Illinois, as well as commuting sentences for people in prison for marijuana-related crimes.
Trailing Pritzker by 10 points is State Senator and cannabis supporter, Daniel Biss, who sees himself as a grassroots alternative to Pritzker and other big money candidates. After Attorney General, Jeff Sessions reversed the Cole Memo, Obama’s policy of not interfering with states that have legalized cannabis, Biss tweeted, “Hey Jeff Sessions, stop trying to drag us back into the 1980’s – the War on Drugs was a failed and backwards policy. It’s time to stop clinging to antiquated thinking and allow states to legalize marijuana.”
In the Simon Poll of 1,001 registered voters across Illinois, Gov. Rauner comes up short against either Democrat. Pritzker leads the governor 50 percent to 35 percent. Bliss leads Rauner 48 percent to 34.
While the passing of SB 2275 is yet another step in the slow march to legalize recreational cannabis in Illinois, the race is now in its final stretch and the team at Medicine Man Technologies is hoping for a positive outcome. When the time does come, we’ll be available for individuals and enterprises looking to enter the Illinois marketplace. We’ve assisted legal operations from coast to coast, and we’re here to support you with everything from seminars to private consulting and much more.