Voters in Illinois may get the chance to tell their state lawmakers how they feel about legalizing cannabis if a measure recently approved by the Senate makes it to the ballots this November. Chicago Democratic Senator Bill Cunningham both sponsored and introduced a non-binding referendum question that he says would act as a statewide poll to see where Illinois voters stand on the idea of legalizing the recreational use and commercial sale of cannabis. The Senate has voted 37 to 13 to approve the measure, which now heads to the House of Representatives to be considered.
If approved by the House of Representatives, the measure would still need to be signed by Governor Bruce Rauner to be placed on the ballot for voters to decide on. The governor, however, has called this effort “misguided” and legalization a “mistake” – but there is hope that since this is a non-binding referendum he will sign it anyway.
Assuming it does reach the ballots this November, the question will read:
“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?”
While the fact that this referendum is non-binding means that voters approving the measure would not actually legalize cannabis, it may give lawmakers insight on how to move forward on the issue in the future. If the majority of the state’s voters approve the measure, then lawmakers may be more inclined to seriously consider legalization bills in the future, or even call for a future vote that would determine the fate of such a bill.
“The debate over marijuana legalization is continuing to lead many states to consider various ideas and changes to current laws,” Sen. Bill Cunningham (D), the chief sponsor of the referendum legislation, said in a press release. “Asking the people of Illinois how they feel about the subject can help determine which path we take as legislators.”
As it stands now, Governor Rauner has told reporters recently that he would veto any bill that intended to legalize cannabis that comes across his desk. This means that even with voter’s approval and the support of other lawmakers, it may still be difficult for the state to move forward with legalization in the future. However, the first steps are being taken by lawmakers who are taking the issue seriously after seeing prohibition begin to end, state-by-state.