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Taxing Medical Marijuana
With a vote of 32 to 21, Illinois senators Friday gave the seal of approval to a four-year medical marijuana pilot program. State Representatives had already done so in April.
"Every year, over 100,000 people die from overdosing on narcotics, and I've never once heard of anyone overdosing on marijuana-- never once, " Jeanne Malone of Ascent Counseling said.
Physicians, counselors, families--even lawmakers bent the ears of senators.
"We have taken steps over the past two years to strictly control the distribution of marijuana to those who need it," lawmakers said on the Senate floor.
State Sen. Andy Manar decided to vote for the bill the day before it hit the floor. He was swayed by its tight regulations and by the lack of financial obligations associated with it.
"The thing that mattered to me most in terms of the finances was that it cannot require the state to spend more money," Manar said.
In California, medical marijuana is a billion-dollar industry. Since the state legalized it in '96, they've raked in around $100 millioni in tax revenue each year. Here's the deal in Illinois.
"The bill is drafted in such a way that it should be self-sustained, given the taxes it would be levied and departments would have to hire some folks to regulate this," Manar said.
The bill provides that a tax of 7 percent of the price per ounce be imposed on the privilege of cultivating medical marijuana.
"The point of the bill is to put out a pilot program that shows compassion on individuals who are in incredible pain," Manar said.
How much the state stands to gain is at this point is anyone's guess. It'll depend on how much marijuana is produced and for how many patients. This bill allows the medication be prescribed to patients suffering from any one of 42 specific illnesses.
Gov. Pat Quinn has indicated he is open to the plan. After its passage in the Senate, he would only say he'll review the bill.