Cook County Voters Weigh in on Legalizing Recreational Marijuana

One of the biggest questions appearing on all Cook County voters’ ballots Tuesday is a non-binding referendum to legalize recreational marijuana use in Illinois.

County commissioners voted unanimously last December to put the question on the primary ballot – but because it is non-binding, legislators are not compelled to act on the results.

The referendum can, however, be used to gauge public opinion and determine whether or not to bring legislation forward in Springfield. The state Senate earlier this month passed a measure to put the question on ballots for statewide voters in November, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The full question on primary election ballots reads as follows: “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?”

Supporters of legalization point to the increased tax revenue that has come with legalization, taxation and regulation in other states. Opponents often have concerns about social costs and the fact that marijuana use would remain illegal under federal law.

If Illinois lawmakers were to legalize marijuana, the state would join Colorado, Washington, Alaska, Nevada, Oregon, Massachusetts, Maine and California, which all passed recreational marijuana use in ballot questions between 2012 and 2016.

The rollout has not been immediate for most states, and legalization has yielded wildly different results for different states.

California voters approved legalizing recreational marijuana in 2016. The law went into effect in December 2017, but state legislators were already considering lowering the marijuana tax to fight persistent black market sales, the L.A. Times reported Thursday.

On the other end of the spectrum, Colorado brought in nearly $700 million in marijuana tax revenue since its law—which was approved in a 2012 referendum—went into effect in 2014, according to the Colorado Department of Revenue

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