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Legal weed gains momentum in Illinois as referendum shows strong support
Illinois Democratic candidate for Governor J.B. Pritzker, center, and his Lieutenant Governor pick Juliana Stratton, left, wave to supporters during his primary election night victory on March 20, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. Pritzker supports the legalization of recreational marijuana. (Joshua Lott/Getty Images)

Legal weed gains momentum in Illinois as referendum shows strong support

Illinois may be one step closer to legalizing recreational use of marijuana after a non-binding referendum in Cook County showed two-thirds of voters support legalization, WBBM-TV reports.

What’s the story?

On Tuesday’s primary ballot, voters were asked whether Illinois should legalize the “cultivation, manufacture, distribution, testing and sale of marijuana and marijuana products for recreational use by adults 21 and older.”

Who supports it, and what do they say?

Democratic gubernatorial candidate JB Pritzker and State Sen. Heather Steans support legal marijuana, and supporters point to the potential for increased revenue if marijuana is legalized and taxed.

“We don’t need more studies on this,” Pritzker said to the Chicago Sun-Times. “We need to legalize marijuana. Let’s regulate it to make it save. Let’s tax it. Let’s reinvest in the hardest hit communities.”

Steans said she believes marijuana should be taxed and regulated like alcohol, and that voters understand that prohibition doesn’t work.

Who opposes it, and what do they say?

Gov. Bruce Rauner opposes legalization of recreational marijuana, with opponents of legalization expressing concern about the social impact and potential issues stemming from creating state laws that contradict federal ones.

He told the Chicago Sun-Times that Illinois should wait and see how the “massive, human experiment” in Colorado and California, among other places, pans out before deciding what to do in Illinois.

Riverside Police Chief Tom Weitzel said driving under the influence of drugs increased in 2017, and legalizing marijuana could make that problem worse.

“So they believe it’s legal to do that and drive. It’s not,” Weitzel told WBBM. “They’re not making the disconnection between the possession of cannabis for your personal use, which is a petty offense under a certain amount versus driving under the influence of cannabis.”

Last year, Illinois adopted a law that decriminalized possession of 10 grams or less of marijuana, reducing the penalty to a ticketable offense and $100-200 fine.

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