Buzzkill: Gov. Rauner 'Not A Believer' That Legalized Marijuana Would Help State's Woes

By Stephen Gossett in News on Mar 24, 2017 4:12PM

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Governor Bruce Rauner outside the Director's Lawn at the Illinois State Fair in August 2016. Photo by Aaron Cynic

Bummer news for advocates of legalized recreational marijuana: Gov. Bruce Rauner is not too jazzed about allowing the sale of jazz cigarettes. A day after two bills were introduced in the state legislature that would legalize and tax the sale of recreational marijuana in the state of Illinois, Rauner said on Thursday he is "not a believer" that such a measure would offer help, but he also admitted he hadn't closely examined the issue. Still, he did leave the window open a bit in his comments.

“I'm not a believer that legalizing more drugs will help our society so I’m not philosophically enthusiastic about it, but I’m also open to what actually works to make life better to people,” Rauner said Thursday on the “Roe Conn Show” on WGN-AM 720.

"I’m hearing some pretty bad stories. Now, I haven’t studied it. I think we should do a thoughtful analysis of what’s happening in these other states. I’m hearing a lot of trouble,” Rauner said. “My friends in Colorado have told me some pretty terrible things about addiction problems and behavior problems, etc. over there in Denver.”

“I just believe we’re conducting a massive human experiment as we legalize these drugs,” he added.

Sen. Heather Steans and Rep. Kelly Cassidy both introduced bills on Wednesday that would would allow people ages 21 and over to buy, grow and posses "limited amounts" of marijuana. It would be taxed at the sale and wholesale levels, and the bill would impose limits on advertising and mandatory labeling, among other requirements.

Supporters argued that the measures would improve safety in communities, help boost the local economy and generate hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

Speaking of the state cited by Rauner in his trepidatious reply, based on Colorado results, the Marijuana Policy Project projected that Illinois could generate between $349 million and $699 per year on legalized marijuana sales.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, who opposed legalized marijuana in his state, has also referred to legalization in his state as an "experiment." But last month he came out strongly against the White House when spokesperson Sean Spicer warned of "greater enforcement" of federal law that prohibits weed.

And as Rich Miller of Capitol Fax pointed toward on Friday, both violent and property crime fell during the first year recreational weed was allowed in Colorado, according to several research groups and studies, including the Drug Policy Alliance, the Colorado Department of Public Safety and the FBI Uniform Crime Report.

Time magazine reported in 2016 that Colorado generated $70 million from legal-recreational-weed taxes from the fiscal year prior, "nearly double the $42 million collected from alcohol taxes." The boon was so pronounced that the state allowed at least one marijuana-tax holiday last year. "[The holiday] will be the one day out of the year when the state won't generate significant revenue," said Mason Tvert, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project, at the time. "Over the other 364 days, it will bring in tens of millions of dollars that will be reinvested in our state."

[H/T Tribune]