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Illinois Under Consideration as the Next Multibillion-Dollar Marijuana Market

As Illinois legislators decide whether to legalize marijuana, a new study concludes demand in the Prairie State for weed could amount to a multibillion-dollar industry.

The study, conducted by Colorado cannabis consulting firm Freedman & Koski, concludes that Illinois’ annual marijuana market could be between $1.69 billion and $2.58 billion. Measured by weight, annual consumption could amount to 350,000-550,000 pounds, the report said, basing estimates on Colorado’s experience with legalized marijuana.

Since 2013, medical marijuana has been legal in the state. There are currently 17 companies that own licenses to grow and process the plant in Illinois, The Chicago Tribune reports.

In the 2018 midterm elections, Chicago residents voted overwhelmingly in favor of appropriating tax revenue from marijuana sales to increase funding for city schools and for mental health clinics, should pot be legalized.

A date to vote on recreational pot hasn’t been set in the Illinois General Assembly. There are two similar proposals under consideration, making weed legal for people over 21. One bill, sponsored by Sen. Heather Steans and Rep. Kelly Cassidy, both Chicago Democrats, would legalize pot by April, and a second bill furthered by Rep. Carol Ammons (D-Urbana) calls for legalization upon passage.

In crafting legislation, lawmakers are discussing fairness in distributing marijuana tax revenue to ensure communities in need of public service improvements aren’t overlooked. “We are trying to provide some recommendations that we think would help infuse those dollars in a meaningful way back into those communities,” said Chicago Democratic Rep. Sonya Harper, a leader in the legislature’s cannabis equity work group, The Tribune reported.

Should pot be legalized, the state will not likely see a boom in the industry right away. As the report from Freedman & Koski notes: “In every market that has come on line, there has been a steady windup before supply met demand and consumers made the full transition from the illicit market to the legal market.”