(CBS) — Doors haven’t even opened to medical marijuana dispensaries and there’s already talk of legalizing recreational pot.
CBS 2’s Dorothy Tucker reports on when that might happen.
Legally lighting up — puffing purely for pleasure — could happen in Illinois sooner than you think.
Kathie Kane-Willis thinks legislation will be introduced this year. She is the director of the Illinois Consortium on Drug Policy, which helped shape the state’s medical marijuana law.
Kane-Willis says recreational pot could be a reality in three to seven years.
Washington State gave the green light to medical marijuana in 1998, Colorado in 2000. Both states legalized marijuana for recreational use in 2012.
“Illinois is cash-strapped. It’s broke,” Kane-Willis says.
She estimates the state could make about $125 million a year growing and selling weed on the open market. That’s money that could fund the pension, fix education or pay for Medicaid. In fact, she says, legislators are currently working on a bill to study the issue.
Another big step is a newly introduced bill that decriminalizes marijuana.
“This bill takes it that one step further and says this activity, possessing a certain amount of this plant, is completely legal,” says Ali Nagib of NORML.
And opinions are changing about it. Nagib says a shift in public opinion could also speed up recreational legalization in Illinois. According to a recent Gallup Poll, 51 percent of Americans say the drug should be legalized. In 2004, it was just 34 percent.
You’ll find plenty of “yay”-sayers in the liberal suburb of Evanston.
Legalized medical marijuana will soon be sold in a storefront in downtown Evanston, just a block from where Kate Mahoney runs a drug-abuse program. You won’t get her to agree to recreational pot.
“Marijuana in general has over 430 different chemicals,” she says. “It’s harder for people to control than they might think.”
In addition to bringing in millions in tax revenues for medical marijuana, advocates say legalizing recreational pot could save the state about $150 million by no longer arresting people for drug-related crimes like possession.