Whether marijuana should be held to the same legal standard of alcohol is often a heated discourse, and Illinois is the latest state taking it on. But don’t get excited quite yet, Lincoln Land pot lovers: a legalization bill isn’t expected to go to vote until next year. If passed, however, the bill, co-sponsored by Senator Heather Steans and Representative Kelly Cassidy, will allow residents to grow up to five plants at their home and possess 28 grams of marijuana.
According to the Chicago Tribune, the bill will place a tax of $50 per wholesale ounce in addition to the state’s standard 6.25 percent sales tax, which certainly won’t make getting high cheap. But what’s notable about Illinois’s proposed bill it that it would make the state the first in the Midwest to allow visitors from out of state to purchase pot; they just won’t be allowed to take it over the border.
Advocates of the bill have cited the successes of Colorado’s decision to legalize ganja, including all the cold, hard cash weed has brought in. Colorado collected more than a billion dollars in 2016, according to Fortune.
The Marijuana Policy Project, a national advocacy group, estimates that Illinois could earn as much as $350 to $700 million in sales, based on sales in Colorado. In terms of opposition to the bill, the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police believes marijuana threatens public health and safety, saying it could also cause a “potential enforcement problem.”
Steans counters that if we bring this law into the open, “[the state] can generate revenue legally rather than for the black market.“ Cassidy agrees, adding that prohibition creates more problems than it prevents, explaining that "regulating marijuana and removing the criminal element from marijuana production and sales will make [the community] safer.”
Regarding the monetary value sustained from such an effort, this much is fact: in 2015, Colorado experienced a 42 percent increase in legal recreational pot sales from 2014 to 2015—the first 12 months pot became legal business in the state. Since October 2016, the state has collected more than $150 million in taxes from these sales, including almost $50 million from an excise tax that went directly toward a number of school construction projects.
Whether you’re a pot smoker, it’s difficult to look beyond the potential—and already calculated—profits the plant can earn for our country. In fact, these numbers have already been crunched. Cannabis industry research firm ArcView Group estimates that the legal marijuana industry could reach nearly $22 billion in total annual sales in the U.S. by as early as 2020. That’s right, billion.