As the national majority becomes more and more in favor of legalization over prohibition when it comes to cannabis policies, it should come as no surprise that the second most populated county in the country just voted in favor of legalizing cannabis.
Cook County, Illinois – home of the city of Chicago, for those who are not familiar with the area – voted largely in favor of legalizing marijuana on a non-binding referendum on Tuesday. Though official results are not in as of this writing, unofficial results from the Cook County clerk’s office said that after all reporting was done, 63 percent of voters said “yes”.
“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?” the referendum read.
Earlier this month, the Illinois Senate passed legislation that would put a similar non-binding referendum on the statewide ballot in November. The bill now awaits review and voting in the House – but unlike other bills, the governor would not have a chance to veto this one. Though a two-thirds majority in both the Senate and the House is required for it to pass, it would be sent straight to voters.
Since these are non-binding referendums they do not immediately mean the legalization of cannabis, but it would give lawmakers more incentive to make updating their marijuana policies a priority.
While current Governor Bruce Rauner passed decriminalization of cannabis possession last year, he opposes legalization. However, his position is up for re-election in November, when this non-binding referendum would be voted on. Competing against Rauner is JB Pritzker, who is a clear supporter of marijuana legalization.
“I also support legalizing and taxing recreational use of marijuana, which is estimated to generate as much as $700 million a year for the state,” JB Pritzker, Democratic candidate for Governor, said. “No more studies are needed to show it’s time for Illinois to safely move forward and legalize marijuana. As governor, I will modernize drug laws and move Illinois towards a criminal justice system that gives all Illinoisans a chance to reach their full potential.”
Along with legislation to poll voters’ opinions of legalization statewide through ballot referendum, lawmakers have also held hearings on bills that would legalize marijuana without consulting with voters. However, neither the Senate nor the House has yet to schedule a vote on the matter and don’t necessarily seem in a hurry to do so just yet. Perhaps they are waiting until they get the voters’ opinions, but if the rest of the state is in line with Cook County, then a large majority want to see the end of prohibition in the state of Illinois.