Pritzker Says He Wants to Legalize Marijuana in Illinois

Governor-elect J.B. Pritzker said Wednesday he wants to move forward with his campaign proposal to legalize recreational marijuana in Illinois.

When asked about generating revenue for the state, Pritzker first said he wants to grow jobs by bringing companies in and attracting more small businesses.

"And then add to that there are things like legalizing marijuana, something I think will be important to bring $700 million of revenue to the state, maybe as much as $1 billion," Pritzker said, adding, "We've got to do that with a regulatory system that keeps our people safe."

Before cruising to victory over incumbent Gov. Bruce Rauner, Pritzker had said several times that he wanted to legalize marijuana, which 10 states in the U.S. have already done, including most recently Michigan on Tuesday night.

He said in an NBC 5 questionnaire last month that he planned to "put in place a framework to license businesses to sell marijuana to consumers for recreational use, placing an emphasis on intentionally including black and brown entrepreneurs in the planning and licensing of new marijuana businesses."

When asked about a timeline on Wednesday, Pritzker did not detail specifics, saying that he wanted to work from bills previously introduced by state Sen. Heather Steans and state Rep. Kelly Cassidy.

"We can work from that, but I want to make sure that we're looking at the regulatory systems of the other states that have legalized it," he continued. "One of the advantages that we have of not being the first state to do this is we can look at what's worked in other states. The state of Washington, for example, has one regulatory system that I think looks pretty good to me."

"I want to protect our citizens while we're also looking at creating jobs and expanding opportunity for people with the legalization of marijuana," Pritzker said.

Steans and Cassidy said in a Chicago Tribune op-ed last year that based on an analysis of the legislation they introduced, the fiscal impact of marijuana sales in Illinois would range from $350 million to $700 million.

A pilot program for the use of medical marijuana was legalized in Illinois in 2013, while possession of small amounts of marijuana was decriminalized statewide in 2016.

In a referendum question on ballots across Chicago in Tuesday's election, more than 88 percent of voters said they supported appropriating revenue from the sale of marijuana - if it were to be legalized - to increase funding for Chicago Public Schools and mental health services.

That question was posed months afer the March primary, in which 68 percent of Cook County voters cast ballots in favor of legalizing the drug, though that referendum and the city's on Tuesday were solely advisory and non-binding. 

Unlike Pritzker's signature agenda item, switching Illinois to a progressive income tax system, legalizing marijuana would not require an amendment to the Illinois Constitution, but could be done through the legislature - where Democrats will have supermajorities in both chambers come January.

Contact Us