Illinois voters just elected a new governor who supports legalizing, regulating and taxing marijuana—and a new study indicates that the state would reap significant economic benefits if lawmakers follow through in 2019.
According to an analysis from the Illinois Economic Policy Institute and the Project for Middle Class Renewal at the University of Illinois, fully legalizing cannabis would bring in 24,000 jobs, more than $500 million in tax revenue and infuse about $1 billion into the state economy overall by 2020.
Legalization would also reduce law enforcement costs to the tune of about $18 million per year, the study found.
“Assuming similar usage and taxation rates as Colorado, we’d expect marijuana legalization to have more than twice the financial impact in Illinois because of our state’s comparatively larger size,” study co-author Frank Manzo IV said in a press release. “At a practical level, this means tens of thousands of new jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in new tax revenues that can be invested in vital infrastructure, education, and public safety programs that have been most impacted by recent budget pressures in Springfield.”
The study also took into consideration claims opponents of legalization commonly make—but found they didn’t hold water. Cannabis consumption doesn’t increase post-legalization, opioid usage actually declines, there’s no spike in traffic fatalities and workplace accidents and absenteeism don’t change, the researchers affirmed.
“The claims of legalization opponents have been studied exhaustively in states that have begun to tax and regulate legal marijuana,” study co-author and University of Illinois Professor Robert Bruno said. “While these policies have consistently brought a myriad of benefits to taxpayers and the economy, the research has failed to find any correlation between legalization and increased usage or other social costs.”
The analysis comes at a convenient time, as advocates eye the Midwest as another potential frontier for marijuana reform. Illinois governor-elect, J.B. Pritzker (D), touted the economic benefits of legalization in a recent interview, telling Fox 32 News that it’s one revenue-generating policy that can be pursued “right away.”
Governor-elect @JBPritzker wants to legalize recreational marijuana in Illinois almost immediately after being sworn in next year. He also said he will look at vacating arrest records for those who have been convicted of crimes involving marijuana. https://t.co/NESIbgSgU1 pic.twitter.com/qM889uy405
— FOX 32 News (@fox32news) November 7, 2018
Lawmakers in the state seem positioned to make good on that proposal, though the exact timing remains unclear. Sponsors of a legalization bill are planning to reintroduce legalization legislation in January, with hopes of getting it passed before the end of the legislative session in May. How the bill approaches taxation will likely be a major factor that lawmakers consider when the time comes.
Photo courtesy of WeedPornDaily.