Ballot question on recreational use of marijuana clears Senate panel
Sens. Jim Oberweis (R-Sugar Grove) and Chris Nybo (R-Elmhurst) shared their thoughts on the legalization of marijuana for recreational use during Wednesday’s meeting of the Senate Executive Committee.
SB2275, a non-binding advisory question to be placed on the Nov. 6 ballot asking voters if they support the legalization of possession and use of marijuana for recreational purposes for residents older than 21, sponsored by Sen. Bill Cunningham (D-Chicago), was the specific issue for the two senators.
Oberweis questioned why the issue was being placed on the ballot. “If the intention is that we think that it is a good thing to do, why have a ballot initiative instead of bringing it directly to the Senate,” Oberweis said.
Cunningham said by his count there are nine states and the District of Columbia that have legalized recreational use of marijuana, and it was done by a ballot initiative in those cases, except for Vermont.
“I think it is appropriate being that we have a debate going on in this building right now, and a series of hearings going on throughout the state, that we bring the public into the debate like other states and give them an opportunity to register their opinion,” Cunningham said.
Oberweis questioned if that was the case, why is the question not going to be a binding resolution.
“Illinois is a little bit different than other states in that we reserve binding referendum for constitutional questions and I don’t know that this is something we want to imbed in the Constitution,” Cunningham said. “That’s why I think an advisory question is appropriate.”
Nybo did not beat around the bush, letting Cunningham know he would not receive his support.
“Not because I oppose the legalization of marijuana, I am still taking that issue under consideration,” Nybo said. “I just have to say that of all the issues that we as a state are facing and have the opportunity to present to our citizens in an advisory referendum, I would frankly put this one very low down the list.”
Property tax reduction and fair legislative redistricting are two issues Nybo could think of off the top.
Nybo noted a third pressing issue, and looked at Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) when he said “even steps to impose limitations on the length of time that any one of us can serve as leader of our chamber” is far more pressing.
“I don’t oppose the substance (marijuana), I just feel there are so many other important issues that we as a state should be doing right now,” Nybo said. “And for that reason, I am going to be voting no on this bill.”
SB2275 passed out of committee on an 11-4 vote.