Six in 10 Illinoisans want recreational pot treated ‘just like alcohol,’ poll shows

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With less than two weeks left in the spring legislative session, a new poll funded by Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s dark money group finds strong support for legalizing marijuana throughout the state.

The Global Strategy Group poll, commissioned by Think Big Illinois, asked 802 Illinois registered voters between April 29 and May 1 whether they supported or opposed “legalizing recreational marijuana, taxing it, and regulating it just like alcohol.”

Statewide, the poll found 60% supported that, while 35% opposed it.

Support was higher in the Chicago area than downstate, but overall the results varied little when broken down by area.

In Chicago, 60% were in support, while 33% were opposed. In the suburbs of Cook County, 68% supported it, while 26% were in opposition.

In the collar counties 60% supported it and 37% were in opposition. And in downstate Illinois, 54% said they support it, while 40% were opposed to legalizing recreational marijuana.

Two weeks ago, a poll commissioned by anti-legalization group Smart Approaches to Marijuana found 41% support legalization. That poll, conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy, was conducted May 6 through May 7. A total of 625 registered Illinois voters were interviewed statewide via telephone. In the Mason-Dixon poll, the collar counties gave legal pot the highest approval rating, where 44% wanted to legalize. In Cook County, 41% supported legalization. And in downstate Illinois, 38% supported legalization. More women than men supported legalization, with 43% of women and 38% of men in favor.

That poll was panned by some for its line of questioning, with one question asking voters whether all marijuana use should be made illegal, even though medical marijuana is legal in Illinois — and there are zero plans to eradicate that.

The Think Big Illinois poll, however, compares marijuana to alcohol regulation, which is quite different. Under the current proposal, Illinois residents over 21 would be able to buy cannabis from licensed dispensaries. And Illinoisans over 21 would also be able to possess 30 grams, or just over an ounce of cannabis flower, and 5 grams, or less than a quarter-ounce, of cannabis concentrates such as hash oil. Additionally, Illinoisans would be able to carry up to a half-gram of edible pot-infused products.

Alcoholic drinks are widely available and adults are not limited in how much they can buy or possess.

Both the pro and anti-pot groups are using a lot of resources to push their agendas with the spring session ending on May 31.

Legalizing recreational marijuana is one of Pritzker’s top priorities this legislative session, along with pushing a graduated income tax. Think Big Illinois is Pritzker’s “dark-money” group. He has confirmed he’s contributed millions to the group but has not specified how much.

The Think Big poll notes its findings are consistent with a Simon poll conducted in March that found 66 percent of those polled statewide support legalizing recreational marijuana. The anti-legalization group, SAM, too, used those Simon numbers to try to show support was waning.

Last week, sponsors of the bill that would legalize adult use of recreational marijuana testified before a Senate committee that legalization could bring in $500 million from sales when the program is fully running — in about five to six years. State Sen. Toi Hutchinson, D-Olympia Fields, told the committee it would bring in $56 million in this year’s budget and about $140 million next year.

The bill’s criminal and social justice considerations include plans to use an automated system to expunge roughly 800,000 marijuana convictions and allow those with pot convictions to work in the legal cannabis industry. It also includes a designation for “social equity applicants” to get licenses and would provide minority-owned businesses support, including access to capital and loans.


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