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Illinois, Delaware Dems Argue Legal Weed Would Help Economies

Will the Illinois and Delaware legislatures become the first in the nation to end marijuana prohibition in their states? Not if police and pediatricians have anything to say about it.

Sure, there are eight states where people can smoke weed just for the fun of it without worrying about getting busted. But those were all cases of voters telling their politicians what they wanted.

Illinois and/or Delaware could become the first states in the nation where politicians take the lead on legalizing the recreational use of marijuana.

Illinois state Sen. Heather Steans (D) and Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D) plan to hold a town hall-style public hearing on the idea this Wednesday.

“It’s time that Illinois had a new drug policy,” Cassidy said. “Legalizing recreational marijuana will bring in hundreds of millions of dollars to the state. We’re discussing all sorts of proposals to end the budget impasse, and we thought this should be part of the conversation as well.”

Steans and Cassidy have introduced legislation that would make it legal for adults 21 and older to possess, grow, and purchase limited amounts of marijuana. The state would license and regulate businesses to cultivate, process, test, and sell marijuana to adults.

The legislation (SB 316/HB 2353) would also create and enforce strict health and safety regulations, such as testing and labeling requirements and restrictions on marketing.

The Marijuana Policy Project has estimated that legalizing recreational pot would mean a windfall of between $350 million and $700 million in new tax revenue in Illinois.

“We’re talking about all sorts of ways of raising revenue,” Cassidy told the AP. “We might as well be talking about this, too.”

That isn’t the way Ed Wojcicki, the director of the Illinois Association of Police Chiefs, sees it. He told the AP that legal marijuana would be “an enforcement nightmare.”

A Delaware Democrat wants her state to legalize recreational marijuana, too. The top cops in her state are just as worried —and resistant — as Wojcicki.

Like Steans and Cassidy in Illinois, Rep. Helene Keeley sees the grass in Colorado much greener than it is in Delaware.

Keeley said legalizing weed would “start an entirely new industry” in Delaware.

"As the only state in a seven-hour drive to have legalized marijuana, we would become a destination that would attract out-of-state sales, which would have a benefit to our Delaware businesses,” Keeley told the News-Journal.

Keleey and Sen. Margaret Rose Henry (D), who is sponsoring a legalized pot bill in the Senate, believe Delaware would see an infusion of $22 million in marijuana sales tax revenue the first year recreational marijuana is legalized.

But Henry doesn’t see this as a way to balanced Delaware’s budget. She sees it as an opportunity to reform the state’s criminal justice system.