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A legal marijuana referendum will be on the Cook County ballot in March

Zach Long
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Zach Long

Illinois still has a long way to go before recreational marijuana is legalized, but an advisory referendum on the upcoming primary election ballot could signal some major progress. The Chicago Tribune reported that Cook County commissioners unanimously voted to put the question to voters in the March 20 primary, allowing 40 percent of Illinois residents to weigh in.

Because the referendum is advisory, its approval won't immediately legalize weed in Illinois, but it could provide some crucial support for lawmakers who are trying to push the issue in Springfield. A Southern Illinois University poll conducted earlier this year found that 74 percent of Chicagoans are in favor of legalization—if those numbers are reflected at the polls, the referendum's approval seems likely.

With the repeal of the unpopular soda tax, Cook County is searching for new revenue streams, and the taxation of legal kush could be the motherload. Earlier this year, State Senator Heather Steans and Representative Kelly Cassidy introduced legislation (which was ultimately never brought to a vote) that would legalize recreational marijuana and tax the hell out of it, generating $699 million a year in new revenue for the state, according to a Marijuana Policy Project projection.

If you'd like to see weed legalized in Illinois in your lifetime, make sure your pothead friends are registered to vote and remind them (frequently) to show up to the polls on March 20. 

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