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Illinois Gov. Election Could Determine How Quickly the State Legalizes Pot

Election Could Determine How Quickly Illinois Legalizes Pot
PHOTO Eli Christman


Illinois Gov. Election Could Determine How Quickly the State Legalizes Pot

The Democratic challenger in Illinois’ gubernatorial race supports legal cannabis.

Illinois has been progressing nicely as of late when it comes to statewide cannabis reform.

Patient applications for the state’s medical marijuana are reportedly surging since Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a bill over the summer allowing the herb as an alternative to opioid painkillers. Some of the latest numbers show the program is now servicing more than 44,000 patients, with thousands of more expected to join soon. This is perhaps Rauner’s biggest leap since he signed the program into law back in 2013.

But the state seems to hit a wall where recreational marijuana is concerned. Lawmakers have failed over the past few years to get the issue looked at seriously in legislative chambers. And even if they could have squeezed a bill through this year or the year before, Rauner would not have supported it. He has been adamant about not giving in to a taxed and regulated pot market until it is clear that states like Colorado be consumed by reefer madness.

However, there is a good chance Rauner will be forced to stop playing the overprotective parent to the state of Illinois. The gubernatorial election is just a week away and it’s not looking good that the Republican will get a second term.

Democratic challenger J.B. Pritzker, who has the complete opposite opinion when it comes to legal weed, wants the keys to the governor’s mansion and wants it bad. The billionaire candidate has said from the very beginning of his campaign that he wants the state to legalize marijuana as a means for shaking the foundation of criminal justice and digging the state out of its more than $8 billion ditch of debt.

The pro-pot pitch is resonating with the voters. Some of the latest polls indicate that Pritzker is the fan favorite, taking a double-digit lead over Rauner. It stands to reason that a vote for the Democratic contender in the midterms is a vote for full-blown marijuana legalization. If Pritzker gets the win, it is conceivable that legal weed could be ushered in as early as 2019, while another term for Rauner might prolong it indefinitely. Here are a few things to consider before heading to the polls.

Rauner’s consistency on the issue of legalization is to be respected. Even though the handicappers of the gubernatorial race show that he stands to lose the throne in part due to his belief that legal weed is a bad move for the state, the man has not faltered on his opinion just for the sake of gaining points. The Governor continues to be “very much opposed” to the legalization of marijuana.

Earlier this week, his campaign even touched on the issue further by saying legal weed “is a much newer and more complex issue that should not be considered by the state of Illinois until all possible positive and negative effects are understood.” This massive “human experiment,” as Rauner has called it has been carrying on for the past six years in Colorado and Washington. It’s not a perfect system, but the consensus is that more good than bad has come from legalization. Even Colorado’s outgoing Governor John Hickenlooper, who initially opposed marijuana legalization, told Rolling Stone earlier this year that “the worst things that we had great fear about – spikes in consumption, kids, people driving while high — we haven’t seen any of that.”

Democratic Pritzker understands how important marijuana legalization would be for the state, and he “knows we can legalize marijuana in a safe way that will benefit communities across Illinois,” his campaign told the Chicago Tribune. “And he is ready to do that as governor,” the campaign added.

Again, from the very beginning, Pritzker has preached about the need to reform the drug laws to address racial disparities, and he wants to use the cannabis industry as a means to provide the minority community with more work and business opportunities. His mission is not so much about putting legal weed in the hands of adults 21 and over; it’s about creating prosperity and solving socioeconomic challenges. There is in upwards of $700 million in annual tax revenue waiting to be had as a result of this reform, not to mention thousands of new jobs and potentially billions in economic reverb.

But the outcome of the election is far from a done deal. Political analysts say voters will not be making their selection at the ballot box based on marijuana alone. Some research has shown that the issue doesn’t necessarily drive voter turnout. Unfortunately, the older voters (those over 55) are primarily the ones that can be counted on to show up at the polls.

So, for legal weed to shine through in the midterm (Illinois and beyond) is crucial for younger voters to get off their tuckus and get out and vote. Otherwise higher priorities issue like crime and taxes (the older folks love to bicker about these topics) are likely to influence the ticket and Illinois will be inevitably doomed for more of the same prohibition standard it is currently experiencing.

TELL US, what issue are you most focused on in terms of the upcoming midterm election?

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