Cook County commissioner wants voters to decide legality of marijuana in Illinois
An advisory referendum allowing Cook County voters to decide whether recreational marijuana should be legal for people age 21 and older could be on the March 20 ballot.
Cook County Commissioner John Fritchey (D-Chicago) said he wants voters to weigh in.
“Cook County voters make up about 40 percent of the Illinois population,” Fritchey said.
“There’s legislation pending in the General Assembly for this and I want them to know where almost half the population stands on this issue,” Fritchey told Amy Jacobson and guest host Bruce Wolf of Chicago’s Morning Answer radio show.
Dan Proft, the host of Chicago’s Morning Answer is a principal of Local Government Information Services, which owns this publication.
A recent poll from the Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Paul Simon Public Policy Institute indicates that two-thirds of Illinois voters approve of marijuana legalization. About 70 percent of respondents in Cook County and collar counties and about 74 percent in Chicago support recreational marijuana legalization, according to the poll.
Allowing legal recreational marijuana in the state will help cut costs for the state attorney's office and the public defender, both of which are cash-strapped according to Fritchey.
“Every year we end up with tens of thousands of people arrested for low-level possession of marijuana,” Fritchey said. “All those cases clog up the court systems.”
Fritchey said 90 percent of those cases get dismissed.
In addition, legalizing marijuana would also bring much-needed revenue to the state.
“You’re looking at $350 million to $700 million statewide,” Fritchey said. “Like with anything else, there’s going to be local taxation so there is going to be money generated at the local level as well.”
For those who believe marijuana is a gateway drug, Fritchey said there are studies that say the plant will actually do the opposite and help get people off the latest type of drug that has become a national health crisis.
“What’s timely right now is this finding that marijuana is actually a very effective way to deal with the opioid crisis,” Fritchey said. “It’s been a good way to wean people off of opioids.”
Legalizing recreational marijuana has to happen at the state level so it may be some time before it happens.
"My measure will be voted on at the December Cook County Board meeting,” Fritchey said. “If approved, and at this point I already have 12 sponsors, so I have enough votes to approve it, it will go on the March ballot and that will give the General Assembly a very good idea of where Cook County voters stand on this.”
According to the Chicago Tribune, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle supports putting the referendum on the ballot.