CHICAGO — Gubernatorial candidate and billionaire J.B. Pritzker could legalize marijuana in Illinois if he is elected in November, according to the Chicago Tribune.
The Democratic nominee for the governor of Illinois says on his website that if he were to be elected governor of the state, he would legalize marijuana. Medical marijuana is legal in the state for limited illnesses, but the gubernatorial candidate wants to legalize recreational marijuana in Illinois as well.
Pritzker says legalizing marijuana is a criminal justice issue because minorities are arrested at a much higher rate than Caucasians. The gubernatorial candidate posted a tweet which noted the disparity of marijuana arrests in the state.
"Criminalizing marijuana hasn't made our communities safer. What it's done is disproportionately impact black and brown communities." More than 90 percent of the marijuana arrests in Chicago in 2017 and early 2018 were people of color.
Pritzker said that he would make marijuana safer by legalizing the drug and setting up a framework to allow businesses to sell marijuana for recreational use. The billionaire also says that if he were elected, he would commute the sentences for people currently incarcerated for marijuana-related crimes in the state, adding that prohibition and incarcerating people for minor drug offenses would be over.
In addition to commuting sentences for marijuana offenders, Pritzker would also create new jobs and license minorities to operate marijuana dispensaries in the state, adding that it was a good way to reinvest in communities ruined by the war on drugs.
Pritzker said that legalizing marijuana in Illinois could generate between $350 million and $700 million in taxes per year. His opponent and the incumbent Republican governor Bruce Rauner has said that he is opposed to legalizing recreational marijuana.
Rauner says that legalizing marijuana would be a mistake and that the states doing so are conducting mass experiments. "I do not support legalizing marijuana. I think that's a mistake. You know there's a massive, human experiment going on in Colorado, and California, other places," he said. Both California and Colorado have legalized marijuana.
Rauner has supported some medical marijuana initiatives and signed the pot for pills bill, which allows patients with opioid prescriptions to be prescribed medical marijuana as an alternative to opioids. "Medical cannabis creates an opportunity to treat pain in a less intrusive, less obstructive way than opioids," said the governor.
The governor did, however, veto a bill that would add PTSD to the list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana in 2015. A judge forced the state to add PTSD to the list a year later.
Dan Linn from the Illinois chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) hopes that Pritzker's views on legalizing marijuana will prompt more people to vote on Nov. 6, especially young folks.
"It's going to be part of a broader wave of young people going to the polls. When there's such an obvious difference between the two major party candidates, this issue will cause a lot of younger people to support the Democrat," said Linn.
Voters in the state appear to approve of legalizing marijuana. A referendum on the ballot during the primary election asked voters if recreational marijuana should be legal.
At least 63 percent of voters in the state said yes to the referendum. Seventy-three percent of Chicagoans said yes to the referendum and a recent poll found that 75 percent of voters in the state support legalizing recreational marijuana. The election is Nov. 6.