How soon could recreational marijuana be legal in Illinois? - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

How soon could recreational marijuana be legal in Illinois?

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CARBONDALE -- Efforts to make Illinois the next state to legalize recreational marijuana have started taking shape in Springfield. The race for Illinois Governor could have a big impact on the plan's making it into law. 

Illinois already decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana. In a little less than a year and a half, it could become legal for recreational use.

Experts said whether or not it does become legal, has a lot to do with who wins the 2018 race for Governor. 

"If it's somebody who is in favor of the idea and would be less likely to veto it, then it's got a much better chance in the Spring of 2019," said political expert Jak Tichenor with the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute.

Tichenor said polls show 2/3 of Illinois voters, or 66 percent, are in favor of making it legal if it's taxed and sold like alcohol. Democratic candidate for governor, J.B Pritzker, feels the same. 

"We should legalize recreational marijuana in small amounts, and the reason for that is that its widely available already, let's face it," said Pritzker. 

Estimates show legalization could make Illinois between $350 million to $700 million a year. Tichenor said there's no dismissing the fact that Illinois is in desperate need of money, but despite that, many lawmakers aren't yet on board. 

"This is still a very difficult sell for downstate lawmakers who tend to be much more conservative," said Tichenor. 

Yet another leading democratic candidate for governor, Daniel Biss,  is also in support. Current Governor Bruce Rauner, though, has been tight lipped on the topic.

"You're going to see this issue really come to the forefront over the next few months and over the next year," said Tichenor. 

Tichenor said there will be a lot of talk, but we won't have a good feel for what lies ahead until this coming spring. 

Tichenor said while much of the support for legalization came from the Chicago area, more than 50% of downstate voters who were polled also want to see it legalized. With such wide support, that could conceivably give lawmakers more incentive to pass legislation. 

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