CHICAGO — The first hearing in an effort to solve the state's fiscal crisis by legalizing marijuana will be held Wednesday morning in the Loop.
Two bills pending in the General Assembly authored by Edgewater Democratic state Sen. Heather Steans and Edgewater Rep. Kelly Cassidy would create a system for regulating and taxing marijuana sales in an effort to bring in at least $350 million a year.
Illinois residents could possess up to 28 grams and five plants. Nonresidents could possess 14 grams. The bill would impose a $50 per ounce tax on pot at the wholesale level, while sales to the public would be subject to the state’s 6.25 percent sales tax.
Businesses producing marijuana for sale would be bound by labeling requirements and marketing restrictions.
The revenue from marijuana sales would be earmarked for schools as well as treatment and education programs about the dangers of marijuana, alcohol and tobacco.
The first hearing on the topic is scheduled for noon in the Michael A. Bilandic Building, 160 N. LaSalle St.
Gov. Bruce Rauner has said the idea needs more study.
"I think recreational marijuana is a very, very difficult subject," Rauner said during an appearance in Rock Island earlier this month, saying Illinois should look at the impact that legalizing marijuana has had on the states that have already decriminalized the drug.
"I am not in support of Illinois going there until we study the ramifications of what's happening in other states," Rauner said, according to WQAD-TV.
Steans said she and Cassidy wanted to gather as much feedback as possible before putting the bill up for a vote.
“We have received overwhelming support for this legislation but do not plan to move forward hastily," Steans said earlier this month. "We want to ensure that there is ample time for organizations and individuals to present testimony and for us to adjust the legislation based on information presented in hearings.”
The legislation has been endorsed by a new coalition of doctors, law enforcement, clergy and other organizations that supports treating marijuana like alcohol in Illinois.
A national poll of released in February showed that 59 percent of voters favored legalization, while 36 percent did not. Republicans in the Quinnipac Poll were opposed 61 percent to 35 percent, and voters over 65 years old were opposed 51 percent to 42 percent. People age 18 to 34 supported legalization 76 percent to 24 percent, the poll said.
Hispanics are less supportive of legalizing marijuana than whites or blacks, Pew Research says: Some 49 percent of Hispanics say marijuana should be illegal versus 46 percent who say it should be legal. Some 59 percent of blacks and whites favor marijuana legalization in the Pew study.