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Pot Legalization Not Likely This Year

Updated: Tuesday, May 6 2014, 02:49 PM CDT

ILLINOIS -- Don't hold your breath for marijuana legalization this year.

Though the state's medical marijuana system is just beginning to take shape, there have already been calls for full legalization. The Department of Public Health hosted the first of two meetings in Chicago on Monday to discuss proposed rules for medical marijuana. They were upstaged by a full week by the Cook County Commissioner and other Chicago lawmakers calling to legalize the drug.

Though pot supporters continue to push for recreational use, they're not expecting anything this session.

"I think that the public is in support of legalizing cannabis," said Dan Linn, the executive director of the Illinois chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. "I think that the politicians are just going to be playing catch up with the public opinion."

The push to legalize marijuana for everyone might be gaining momentum, but it doesn't look ready to hit its tipping point in Illinois yet. With less than a month left in the session, there's no plan on the books to legalize it.

"I think the political will might not be there yet," Linn said. "There's a lot of lawmakers who might privately support legalizing cannabis, but they don't want to vote for it because they fear that it could hurt them in a re-election campaign."

That has a smack of truth to it. The only Springfield area lawmaker to vote for medical marijuana was Sen. Andy Manar (D-Staunton), who said he voted for it because it was a pilot program with tight restrictions. For widespread legalization, he would "want to see the bill."

Others already know where they stand.

"I think it's just a gateway drug," said Rep. Raymond Poe, "and once we get it in the hands of people, it spreads."

The Springfield Republican and the rest of the Sangamon County delegation voted against medical marijuana. Poe said he'll be a "no" for recreational legalization, too, but he's not expecting it anytime soon.

"So I don't think we'll see it until the spring session of '15," he said.

It's possible that if the state's still struggling financially at that point, it might seem more appealing.

You have illegal drug dealers selling this and they're not paying taxes on that revenue, and they're not collecting taxes when they're making those sales," said Linn.

Full recreational use might be too big of a jump. Linn said there might first be a move to decriminalize the drug.

The Jacksonville City Council is considering such an ordinance for its residents.

Pot Legalization Not Likely This Year


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