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Marijuana Tourism Will Boost Tax Revenue, Illinois Governor Says In State Of The State Speech

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The governor of Illinois took a dig at neighboring states in his State of the State speech on Tuesday, joking about how their lack of legal marijuana access means residents will end up coming to Illinois and paying taxes to his coffers for cannabis products.

Gov. J. B. Pritzker (D) argued that in addition to promoting social equity, Illinois’s adult-use marijuana program “gives us a chance to collect tax revenue from the residents of Wisconsin, Missouri, Iowa and Indiana.”

More importantly, however, the legalization law he signed last year gives “a second chance to hundreds of thousands of people who had a low level cannabis conviction or arrest on their record,” he said.

“Last year we made enormous strides toward equality and opportunity when Democrats and Republicans came together to legalize adult-use cannabis with the most equity-centric legislation in the nation, which will result in 63,000 new jobs and new opportunities for entrepreneurs, especially those from communities that have been left behind,” he said.

The governor also touted the expansion of the state’s existing medical cannabis program, arguing that allowing patients with chronic pain conditions to access marijuana “diminished dependence on opioids.”

“We’re focused on using evidence-based practices to reduce racial disparities as we continue to battle the opioid crisis,” he added.

The day before retail marijuana shops opened in Illinois earlier this month, Pritzker announced that his office had pardoned more than 11,000 people with prior cannabis convictions. Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton (D), who was among the first customers to purchase marijuana on January 1, also stressed that while the economic benefits of legalization will be significant, more important is righting the wrongs of prohibition.

Those economic benefits have proved significant so far. In the first week of legal sales, revenue from cannabis topped $10 million—with more than $3 million having come from the opening day.

Pritzker’s quip about tax dollars from out-of-state shoppers reflects a growing sentiment among lawmakers and governors of states across the U.S., many of whom have embraced legalization in part because of reforms in neighboring jurisdictions.

Vermont lawmakers are looking to add regulated cannabis sales to the state’s existing noncommercial legalization law, with House Majority Leader Jill Krowinski (D) stating that states “around us are coming to that place as well, and we need to put a system in place if other states are going to be doing that as well.”

In Connecticut, Senate President Pro-Tem Martin Looney (D) recently said the legislature is “revisiting legalizing recreational cannabis because we see that most of our neighboring states have already done it or want to do it this year.”

Rhode Island’s governor was initially reluctant to support recreational legalization, but as it became clear that the state would be surrounded by others with legal cannabis markets, she embraced the policy change and included it in her budget proposal.

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Kyle Jaeger is Marijuana Moment's Sacramento-based senior editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE and attn.

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