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Chicago Voters Embrace Cannabis Legalization in a Big Way

March 20, 2018

Voters in the Illinois county that includes Chicago have backed the recreational use of cannabis in a nonbinding referendum.

In an advisory vote, nearly two-thirds of Chicagoland voted in favor of legalization.

The question for Cook County voters asked if Illinois should legalize “the cultivation, manufacture, distribution, testing, and sale of marijuana and marijuana products for recreational use by adults 21 and older.”

With nearly all precincts counted, the “yes” vote carried the day, with 63.3% of ballots cast in favor of legalization. 36.7% of voters were against the idea.

Although the referendum is advisory only, the vote could help state lawmakers make their case in Springfield for the legalization of adult-use cannabis. Medical marijuana is already legal in Illinois.

Supporters of legalizing and taxing cannabis for adults contend it could boost revenue for state and local governments, as it has elsewhere. Opponents of legalization have raised questions about the social cost and subversion of federal laws.

Rauner Opposes It, Pritzker Supports

Earlier this month, the Illinois state senate voted to put a non-binding question regarding legalization on the statewide ballot in November. The question is unlikely to make it to the ballot, though, as it would require the signature of Gov. Bruce Rauner. Rauner has called the measure misguided and legalization a mistake.

Illinois law does not have any provisions for a statewide initiative. The state allows “advisory” measures that act as a kind of formal poll of the voters, but are not legally binding. Changing the state’s cannabis laws outside the legislative process would require a state constitutional amendment. Voters in Florida amended their state constitution to legalize medical marijuana in 2016, but so far no state has amended its constitution by statewide vote in order to legalize adult-use cannabis.

In Tuesday’s primary election, Rauner squeaked by his Republican challenger, Jeanne Ives, 52% to 48%. Meanwhile, billionaire entrepreneur J.B. Pritzker ran away from a crowded Democratic primary field, winning 45% of the vote. His nearest challenger garnered 26% of the vote. Pritzker is a strong supporter of adult-use cannabis legalization in Illinois, and the issue is expected to be one of many issues on which the two general election rivals disagree.


Illinois Senate Approves Marijuana Ballot Question

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  • FlunkedAgain

    The Article stated: “”but so far no state has amended its constitution by statewide vote in order to legalize adult-use cannabis.””

    “” Colorado Amendment 64 was a successful popular initiative ballot measure to amend the Constitution of the State of Colorado, outlining a statewide drug policy for cannabis ..
    Enacted as Article 18, section 16 of the state constitution, the law addresses “personal use and regulation of marijuana” for adults 21 and over, as well as commercial cultivation, manufacture, and sale: regulating marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol, namely for recreational use””

    • Jeffrey Avery

      wow,flunked again,now i’m impressed,that comment was clear,concise,informative and cohearent,,,i knew you had it in you,,,good job…peace out

  • Craig Heilman

    As an Illinoisan, I agree brucey is unlikely to sign the referendum. He will probably assume, rightly, that marijuana reform on the ballot will mobilize the kind of voters that will vote against him, and hurt his chances at re-election. However, I also have a very strong feeling that Pritzker will win anyways, given that it’s a blue leaning state in a “blue wave” year. So I’m hoping he makes good on his promise to get this done.

  • Anxieties

    Why is this even happening. The people are demanding it with their vote. It should be legal already. Yet one man WHO WORKS FOR THE PEOPLE, is denying the people. F off. I have only smoked two times in my 27 years and I still don’t understand why we as a people have been OK with throwing fines and jail time out for non-violent crimes. Let the people have their freedom. I shouldn’t even have to make that statement. We are truly weak and ignorant.