Cook County Voters Give Firm Answer on Legalizing Recreational Marijuana - NBC Chicago
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Cook County Voters Give Firm Answer on Legalizing Recreational Marijuana

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    Cook County voters on Tuesday voted in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana use in Illinois, according to unofficial results. Sixty-eight percent of voters were in favor of legalizing the drug, with 89 percent of precincts reporting, as of 9:37 p.m. 

    The issue of whether or not to legalize the drug for recreational use was one of the most significant referendum questions on Cook County voters’ ballots.

    The question was non-binding, so the vote does not mean recreational marijuana use will automatically become legal. In the end, it is up to legislators to propose and pass a law. 

    The referendum's results can, however, be used to gauge public opinion and determine whether or not to bring legislation forward in Springfield.

    County commissioners voted unanimously last December to put the question on the primary ballot. The state Senate earlier this month passed a measure to put the question on ballots for statewide voters in November, according to the Chicago Tribune.

    The full question on primary election ballots read as follows: "Shall the State of Illinois legalize the cultivation, manufacture, distribution, testing, and sale of marijuana and marijuana products for recreational use by adults 21 and older subject to state regulation, taxation and local ordinance?"

    Supporters of legalization point to the increased tax revenue that has come with legalization, taxation and regulation in other states. Opponents often have concerns about social costs and the fact that marijuana use would remain illegal under federal law.

    Recreational marijuana is currently legal in Colorado, Washington, Alaska, Nevada, Oregon, Massachusetts, Maine, Vermont and California. All but Vermont passed the laws in binding ballot questions between 2012 and 2016.

    Vermont Gov. Phil Scott in January signed into law a recreational marijuana legalization bill, the Associated Press reported. Scott's signing made Vermont the first state to legalize the drug through legislature instead of a referendum, which is the route Illinois would have to take.

    The rollout has not been immediate for most states, and legalization has yielded wildly different results for different states.

    California voters approved legalizing recreational marijuana in 2016. The law went into effect in December 2017, but state legislators were already considering lowering the marijuana tax to fight persistent black market sales, the L.A. Times reported Thursday.

    On the other end of the spectrum, Colorado brought in nearly $700 million in marijuana tax revenue since its law—which was approved in a 2012 referendum—went into effect in 2014, according to the Colorado Department of Revenue

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