Roman Boed

Voters in Cook County, Illinois – which includes Chicago – have approved a non-binding referendum calling on the state to legalize cannabis for recreational use, according to a Chicago Reader report. Voters in the Windy City approved the measure 73 percent to 27 percent and overall Cook County voters approved the referendum 68 percent, KWQC reports.

“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?” – non-binding ballot question approved by Cook County voters

The Marijuana Policy Project estimates that a legal cannabis industry in Illinois could generate between $350 million and $700 million annually in tax revenues. The Reader has previously reported that in the first seven months of 2016 – before statewide decriminalization took effect – more than 3,300 people were arrested for low-level possession and 70 percent of those arrests were for 1 gram or less; 78 percent of those arrested were black, 17 percent were Hispanic, and just 4 percent were white – roughly the same percentages identified by Reader investigations from 2014 and 2011. And while just 59 people were arrested and charged with misdemeanor cannabis possession after the law took effect to the end of 2016, 80 percent of those individuals were black.

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner does not support legalization.

“I think it’s a big experiment on young people’s brains and development. We should study what’s going on in Colorado and California. Even [Colorado Governor John] Hickenlooper says, ‘Bruce, you guys in Illinois, you ought to wait awhile and study what’s going on here. ‘Cause it ain’t all good.'” – Rauner in a Mar. 16 interview with radio station WJPF via the Reader

The referendum is solely advisory, but it could help pro-cannabis lawmakers make their case in the capital.

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