Cannabis can mean revenue

The Northern Star Editorial Board agrees that the state of Illinois should pass House Bill 2353 to decrease the higher education budget gap among other deficits.

If passed, HB2353 would make it legal for Illinois residents to possess up to 28 grams and five plants of marijuana. The bill would also impose a $50-per-ounce tax on marijuana at the wholesale level while consumers would be subject to the state’s 6.25 percent sales tax.

The bill would allow for 30 percent of the revenue to go to education, 20 percent to public health and the other 50 percent to go to the state’s general funds.

It would also allow non-residents to purchase up to 14 grams of marijuana.

State legislators met Wednesday in the State of Illinois building, 160 N. LaSalle Street in Chicago in an open discussion in which certain legislators argued there could be more tax revenue each year if marijuana were to be decriminalized.

“We estimate that doing it this way could generate revenues of up to $350 million to $700 million,” said Senator Heather Steans, according to Fox32Chicago.

The state has $12.8 billion in unpaid bills, said Comptroller Susana Mendoza, according to a March 22 DNAinfo article.

Other states that have legalized recreational marijuana, such as Colorado, have seen a dramatic increase in their state’s revenue.

In 2016, Colorado gained nearly $876 million in recreational marijuana sales while it saw an additional $438 million increase in medicinal marijuana sales, totaling nearly $1.4 billion in revenue from the sale of marijuana, according to the Colorado Department of Revenue. Colorado has also gathered over $235 million in revenue from the sale of marijuana in January and February 2017 alone, according to its Department of Revenue.

While Colorado’s higher education system was not without a budget for three consecutive fiscal years, the revenue from sales of recreational marijuana exceeded $100 million in both FY16 and FY17, with the first $40 million of the excise tax going toward public schools. Medical marijuana was not subjected to the 10 percent special sales or 15 percent excise tax.

The Editorial Board believes Illinois should legalize recreational marijuana to allocate more money to the higher education budget, which several schools, including NIU, are in dire need of to stay open.