Illinois lawmakers ponder proposal to legalize marijuana
CHICAGO — The head of Colorado’s Department of Revenue has spoken to Illinois legislators considering a proposal to legalize marijuana in the state.
The department’s executive director, Barbara Brohl, told lawmakers during a hearing Wednesday that she believes the legal market for marijuana is eating into the black market, funding drug abuse treatment and prevention, and providing a safer product, The Chicago Tribune reported.
Proposed legislation in Illinois would allow possession of up to an ounce of pot by people who are at least 21 years old. Smoking in public would be prohibited, and driving under the influence would remain illegal.
Sponsors of the plan said the measure won’t get a vote this legislative season, but they’re beginning a series of hearings on how to craft a potential law.
“Prohibition doesn’t work,” said Sen. Heather Steans, a Chicago Democrat.
Steans said taxing and regulating pot would create jobs and generate an estimated $350 million to $700 million a year in tax revenues for debt-ridden Illinois.
Brohl said that in Colorado, the roughly $200 million in tax revenue from more than $1 billion in sales last year also provides $40 million for schools.
The hearing generated criticism by some opponents, including police chiefs, who weren’t permitted to testify.
“I don’t know why they didn’t reach out before this and ask us for our opinion and see if there’s some compromise,” said Riverside Police Phief Tom Weitzel, who represented the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, which opposes the measure. “Our officers are the ones doing the enforcement.”