- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 15, 2019

J.B. Pritzker, the new governor of Illinois, said during his inaugural address Monday that he plans to work with lawmakers to legalize recreational marijuana sales within the state.

“In the interests of keeping the public safe from harm, expanding true justice in our criminal justice system and advancing economic inclusion, I will work with the legislature to legalize, tax and regulate the sale of recreational cannabis in Illinois,” said Mr. Pritzker, a Democrat.

Ten states and D.C. have passed laws legalizing recreational marijuana, including seven with systems in place allowing licensed retail dispensaries to operate.

Mr. Pritzker made adding Illinois to that list of states a major part of his campaign, and he previously discussed plans to follow through shortly after winning the state gubernatorial race in November.

“That’s something we can work on nearly right away,” Mr. Pritzker said during an interview conducted a day after he defeated incumbent Republican Bruce Rauner. “I definitely want to look at all those arrest records. If we’re going to legalize recreational marijuana, then we shouldn’t have all the, what I think are, challenges in our criminal justice system, you know, still existing, people sitting in prison for things that are currently legal.”

Illinois legalized medical marijuana in 2013, placing it among 33 states and counting where physicians can legally recommend the plant to qualifying patients.

Marijuana is federally prohibited, however, making the vast majority of Americans subject to conflicting U.S. and state laws.

Illinois medical marijuana patients spent roughly $28.4 million at licensed dispensaries during 2018, the state Department of Public Health said previously. A report released by in 2017 by the Illinois Economic Policy Institute, meanwhile, found that fully legalizing retail sales could produce an annual economic impact of to $1 billion.

“There are revenue opportunities for the state like legalizing marijuana and that has the opportunity to bring $350 million to $700 million in revenue maybe as much as $1 billion, not to mention the jobs that will be created with dispensaries and production facilities,” Mr. Pritzker said late last year.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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