CHICAGO (CBS) — A small but spirited group of people gathered in Daley Plaza to voice support for legalization of marijuana, reports WBBM’s Bob Roberts.

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It was the Chicago celebration of what organizers called the “Global Cannabis March,” with similar rallies in cities across the country.

This year, the tone was different. Colorado has legalized recreational use of pot, and in Illinois a medical marijuana bill has won approval from the Illinois House. It is in a committee of the state Senate, which approved a similar bill in 2009.

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The Illinois executive director of the National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws (NORML), Dan Linn, said he is optimistic about the chances for passage of the bill. He said it would help many who suffer from HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis and other debilitating diseases.

Linn said it would not be a bill that would allow just anyone to buy a “nickel bag” from a drug dealer. In fact, he said it would be a step toward cutting the streetgangs out of one of their most lucrative businesses, the same way legitimate liquor distributors replaced organized crime following the repeal of Prohibition in the 1930s.

“Criminals are profiting from it, when actually, cannabis should be taxed and regulated like alcohol,” said advocate Mark Brouwer, of Bucktown.

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For a group of fewer than 100, there was a lot going on — rock bands, speakers and some real characters, including one man who wore a wreath of fake pot plants draped around his neck, and who carried a flag that resembled the American flag in black and white, but with 50 pot plants in place of the stars.