Legalize it, voters across Chicago and suburban Cook County said Tuesday.
In response to a referendum on ballots across the Weedy, er, Windy City Tuesday, voters overwhelmingly said that pot should be allowed for recreational use. The results were similar in suburban Cook County precincts. In all, nearly 575,000 voters were in favor of completely legal weed.
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The question on ballots was:
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?
With all precincts reporting in Chicago, the vote was 73 percent in favor (more than 306,000 votes) to 27 percent against (less than 113,000 votes).
With nearly 100 percent of precincts reporting in Cook County, the vote was 63-37 in favor, with legal weed getting 267,000 votes.
Medical marijuana is already legal in Illinois.
Recreational pot is legal in California, Nevada, Washington, Colorado, Maine, Oregon, Alaska, and Rhode Island.
Governor Bruce Rauner has come out against legal pot for recreational use, while Democrat J.B. Pritzker supports recreational pot.
The potential economic boost of a marijuana industry—both in terms of tax revenue and new jobs—is driving lawmakers to seriously consider the idea. The Marijuana Policy Project estimates that legal weed could generate between $350 and $700 million in annual tax revenue in Illinois. Given the state's ongoing budget stalemate and massively underfunded pension obligations, new revenue is sorely needed.
But money is just one of several potential benefits of legal pot. As the Reader reported previously, Chicago cops arrested thousands of people last year for possession of small amounts of weed, and nearly 80 percent of those apprehended were black. Legalizing possession and use of the drug could significantly mitigate stark racial disparity and inequity in the state's criminal justice system.
Additionally, Illinois, like many states across the country, is suffering from a heroin epidemic, and studies have shown marijuana can reduce reliance on opioids. Research also indicates a correlation between access to legal weed and a reduction in opioid overdose deaths.[Photo courtesy of Windy City Cannabis]