- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 20, 2019

The governors of Illinois and Connecticut each suggested legalizing recreational marijuana while pitching state budget proposals Wednesday.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont, both Democrats, proposed legalizing recreational marijuana and implementing a system for regulating and taxing retail sales during separate addresses announcing each’s budget.

“The responsible course of action is to embrace some near term reasonable and realistic new revenue,” Mr. Pritzker said. “Let’s begin with this: By legalizing and regulating adult-use cannabis in this legislative session, we will create jobs and bring in $170 million in licensing and other fees in this fiscal year 2020.

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“I have noted many times that I don’t view this issue through a purely financial lens,” he said. “I think we should take this action for our state because of the beneficial criminal and social justice implications and the jobs it will create. And let’s be honest, like it or not, cannabis is readily available right now. I would rather the state tax it and regulate it than deny the reality of its use and accessibility.”

Mr. Lamont did include marijuana legalization in a two-year budget he proposed before members of the Connecticut legislature, but he said the state “must enact new sources of revenue,” including “legalized recreational marijuana like our neighbors, that will be carefully regulated for a safer market, with tax.”

Indeed, a bill pending in the Connecticut state House of Representatives would legalize marijuana a system for taxed and regulated sales if passed. It was jointly filed last month by 40 members of the state House, all Democrats, and recently deemed likely to succeed by the state House Republican deputy minority leader, state Rep. Vincent Candelora.

Illinois state Rep. Carol Ammons introduced a similar proposal last month legalizing marijuana and allowing licensed dispensaries to operate, but The Chicago Tribune reported that her bill is less likely to pass on account of fellow Democrats favoring a forthcoming, more restrictive plan longer in the works.

Marijuana is illegal under federal law, but 33 states — including both Illinois and Connecticut — have passed legislation permitting certain patients to use for medicinal purposes. Ten of the states to defy federal prohibition have legalized marijuana for recreational purposes, and seven of those — Alaska, California, Colorado, Nevada, Oregon, Massachusetts and Washington state — allow licensed dispensaries to sell retail pot.

Several bills pending on Capitol Hill would effectively end the federal government’s marijuana prohibition if passed, meanwhile.

Mr. Pritzker campaigned on legalizing marijuana in Illinois, and Mr. Lamont previously said that a similar effort in Connecticut was among his “priorities” for the 2019 legislative sessions. Former businessmen, both were elected to their first term in November 2018 and inaugurated last month.

In addition to the governor’s office, Democrats control the state House and state Senate in both the Illinois and Connecticut state legislatures.

The governors of New York, Rhode Island and Wisconsin, all Democrats, similarly endorsed legalizing marijuana in budget proposals of their own offered in recent weeks.

President Trump said while campaigning that he supported letting states decide whether to defy prohibition. More recently, the White House said he would support a bill that would prevent the federal government from disrupting state-level recreational and medical marijuana programs.

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