Ilinois could be ready to do something Indiana may never do.

After years of flirting with the idea, legislators there are on the precipice of legalizing recreational marijuana.

Sen. Heather Steans – who expressed her wish for legal weed to me way back in the sepia days of 2017 – and Rep. Kelly Cassidy introduced a bill last year, but waited to gain the support of major legislators, the Chicago Tribune reported last week.

The 2018 election helped them get that. Democrat J.B. Pritzker ousted incumbent Bruce Rauner in the governor's race, and Pritzker has already said greenlighting recreational pot is one of his highest priorities.

“There is an abundance of evidence that shows we can legalize marijuana in a safe way,” some campaign intern probably wrote on Pritzker’s website. “… Legalizing marijuana is a step forward in reforming our broken criminal justice system.”

One Illinois legislator has already offered a bill. Rep. Carol Ammons’ effort would not only let businesses sell weed, but it also allows regular folks like you and me to cultivate as many as 24 plants at home. According to the Tribune, the bill will likely get ignored in favor of whatever Steans and Cassidy cook up.

Illinois legalized medical marijuana in 2013.

Compare that to Indiana. Although we decriminalized CBD last year, we’re currently busy heaping restrictions atop industrial hemp. Tanking the world economy is less regulated.

There is a bill in Indiana aiming to legalize medicinal marijuana, but it probably won't go anywhere. We just don't have the support yet. 

According to a 2017 Paul Simon Policy Institute poll, almost 75 percent of Illinoisans support legal weed. But although the road seems clear now, it doesn’t mean a few obstacles can’t fall out of the sky.

There’s been a minor pushback against legal marijuana lately. A book by former New York Times war correspondent Alex Berenson – “Tell Your Children: The Truth About Marijuana, Mental Illness, and Violence” – got a lot of mainstream media play in December and January. 

It was full of claims, man. Big ones. Citing the National Academy of Medicine, Berenson wrote that teenagers who regularly smoke weed are more likely to develop schizophrenia.

Reports like that are enough to give anyone pause. But then, in a speech to Hillsdale College, Berenson kinda hinted weed could tangentially lead to cannibalism. So who knows what to think?

Like every other debate in this country, there’s not a lot of subtlety in the marijuana fight. Opponents think it’s evil, while proponents think it can cure every known disease.

But it’s like any other big decision. It needs to be done thoroughly and intelligently. 

If Illinois legalizes weed, they should enact common-sense restrictions such as age limits (21 and over) and ensure that any legal manufacturer goes out of their way to clearly label their product’s potency.

And if things work out OK, Illinois’ operation could serve as a nice test run for Indiana – when we finally decide to make the move in 3257.

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