Voters want legal pot; lawmakers likely to wait

A new poll says a lot of people in Illinois want legal, recreational marijuana. But the state is likely a long way from legalizing pot.

The Paul Simon Public Policy Institute says 66 percent of people in Illinois want legal, recreational marijuana. The number jumps to 74 percent when asked about decriminalization.

But just because voters want legal weed doesn’t mean Illinois lawmakers do.

Southern Illinois University professor John Jackson says there’s still a generational divide among lawmakers when it comes to marijuana.

“The older you get, the more conservative you get on the social issues, and this one is not an exception,” Jackson said. “It may be a long time [for legalization] because legislatures often ignore a majority of public opinion.”

The poll says more than 80 percent of voters under 35 years old support legalization and decriminalization. The poll numbers fall into the 50s when it comes to voters older than 50 years old and whether they support legalized marijuana.

Jackson says there is a path to legal marijuana in the state: Illinois’ fiscal implosion.

“Legislators are looking for easy answers to Illinois’ budget impasse, and passing a sin tax has always been an easy way out,” Jackson said. The desire for more money is the only real chance for lawmakers to legalize marijuana any time soon.

“It’s going to be because other states are doing it, it’s easy pickings, and this is one place we can get some revenue,” Jackson said.

The Simon Poll said a majority of Democratic voters strongly support changing Illinois’ marijuana laws. The poll numbers show a slim majority of Republicans do as well.

–Illinois News Network

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