Just how much money is Illinois missing out on by not legalizing pot?

SAFED, ISRAEL - MARCH 07: (ISRAEL OUT) A worker at a cannabis greenhouse at the growing facility of the Tikun Olam company on March 7, 2011 near the northern city of Safed, Israel. In conjunction with Israel's Health Ministry, Tikon Olam are currently distributing cannabis for medicinal purposes to over 1800 people in Israel. (Photo by Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)

A bill was presented to congress over the summer during a mid July assembly. This bill in the Illinois General Assembly that would allow hemp to be grown legally in the state could mark a major shift for medical marijuana growers if approved.

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The use of medical marijuana has been legal in Illinois since 2014. However, the pending legislation could help medical marijuana growers increase their relatively small pool of 25,000 certified users to the general public, Medical Cannabis Alliance of Illinois Chairman Ross Morreale told the Chicago Tribune.

Advocates of the bill said it could also address a lack of regulation of hemp by subjecting the cannabis plant to the same testing for potency and pesticides as medical marijuana in Illinois.

There’s been a huge request for the overall legalization of marijuana coming from Cook County. On Oct. 4, Cook County Commissioner John Fritchey renewed calls to legalize recreational marijuana in Illinois.

RELATED: A Colorado official’s controversial linking of marijuana and homicide is stirring the pot

Fritchey called the action “taxpayer relief.” As the battle over the county’s sweetened beverage tax continues, Fritchey said residents have reached their limit on new taxes.

Fritchey called on the Illinois General Assembly to pass new pending legislation legalizing recreational marijuana.

“It’ll generate millions of dollars in new revenue, thereby reducing the need for new taxes or for service cuts that we will not be able to afford. And lastly, it will ease significantly the burden on our criminal justice system,” Fritchey said.

In the two years since medical marijuana appeared in Illinois, the hemp industry has thrived.

With medical marijuana, growers and dispensaries are heavily regulated, patients require a doctor’s prescription and a background check, and only those with certain approved medical conditions are granted access. But adults can buy and sell hemp-based products that include e-cigarettes and massage oils used to soothe ailments such as insomnia and inflammation.

While hemp is similar to marijuana, manufacturers say it has little or no THC, the component that gets users “stoned.”

According to the Hemp Business Journal, revenue from products containing hemp increased 30 percent to $262 million nationwide in 2016. It projected that figure to increase to more than $1 billion by 2020.

But that’s just the hemp aspect of the giant that is the marijuana industry, let’s take a look at Colorado and compare and contrast the changes we could be seeing in Illinois.

Legal marijuana is a bona fide billion-dollar industry in Colorado. And it’s hitting the mark faster than ever.

In 2017, Colorado eclipsed $1 billion in marijuana sales in eight months; in 2016, it took 10 months. Year-to-date sales are up 21 percent from the first eight months of 2016, when recreational and medical marijuana sales totaled $846.5 million.

This year’s cumulative sales equate to more than $162 million in taxes and fees for Colorado coffers.

RELATED: This bipartisan group of congressmen met to discuss how marijuana prohibition is a horribly racist policy

Economists and state officials have projected that the annual growth rates for Colorado’s cannabis sales will eventually moderate as the local market matures and other states adopt recreational cannabis measures.

Here’s a look at Colorado’s previous cumulative yearly sales totals:
2014: $699,198,805
2015: $996,184,788
2016: $1,313,156,545

Illinois has more than twice Colorado’s population. So essentially, we could easily more than double the profit… The people are waiting, Rauner.

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