Gov. J.B. Pritzker has reiterated his desire to legalize recreational cannabis use in Illinois before the legislative session ends in seven weeks’ time.
Pritzker has earmarked an ambitious $170 million in revenue from a tax on adult-use marijuana sales in his 2020 budget. He is also banking on $200 million from taxes on legal sports wagering in 2020, but that legislation is still some way off being passed.
Ratings agencies have lambasted Prizker’s budget as they claim it is overly reliant on recreational cannabis use and sports betting being passed into law. They have previously warned that Illinois could face a debt downgrade if it approves his budget, increasing the risk of descending into junk status.
Yet Pritzker, who holds more private wealth than any other governor in U.S. history, insists that Illinois becoming the 11th state to permit recreational cannabis use in 2019 is not a pipe dream. “I think the bill that will get introduced and passed is going to be a very, very, strong good bill,” he said.
If he is successful, Illinois would become the second largest state by population and by GDP to legalize adult marijuana use, after California. That would be a huge development for the U.S. cannabis industry.
Pritzker, who amassed a $3.5 billion fortune through middle-market acquisitions and technology venture capital investments, campaigned on a pledge to permit adults across Illinois to smoke weed in a legal environment. He remains determined to follow through on this promise.
He said it has been a long time since he experimented with marijuana and noted that, as a parent of teenagers, he was initially concerned about a rise in teenage cannabis use. But he has spoken with his opposite number in Washington State and he is convinced by its figures showing that there has been no such increase since it legalized adult cannabis use.
He said legalization is important as it will create jobs, bolster the state’s budget and also ensure safety in the supply chain. Cannabis is already decriminalized in Illinois and it became the 20th state to permit medical marijuana back in 2013.