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Governor race

Democrat J.B Pritzker, left, and Republican Gov.Bruce Rauner.  

SPRINGFIELD — A bill introduced in the Illinois General Assembly would allow adults older than 21 to possess up to 28 grams of marijuana and maintain the current regulatory structure in the medical marijuana program.

Portions of revenue generated from legalization would go toward a public education campaign aimed at children and teenagers to inform them of the risks marijuana can pose to them.

But the general consensus in Springfield is the plan, sponsored by state Sen. Heather Steans and state Rep. Kelly Cassidy, both Chicago Democrats, will be tabled until next year, pending the upcoming race for governor.

The gubernatorial battle between Democrat J.B. Pritzker and Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner offers a distinct choice for voters.

Rauner, seeking his second term, has been adamantly opposed to recreational pot use. Though he signed the 2016 bill to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, Rauner has called legalization “a mistake” as recently as last month.

Pritzker, meanwhile, has called for legalization, saying it would bring much-needed revenue for the state and reform the criminal justice system by keeping minor offenders out of prison.

“We must review and commute the sentences of people incarcerated for marijuana offenses in Illinois," he recently told The Associated Press. "It's time to bring the era of mass incarcerations for minor drug offenses to an end."

Voters also could have the chance to weigh in on the issue this fall. The Illinois Senate approved a bill in March that would have the Illinois State Board of Elections place a question about legalization on the Nov. 6 ballot.

The measure is non-binding, essentially making it a public opinion poll rather than an enforceable policy, but legalization supporters said it could help prove to lawmakers that public support for marijuana is there.

The bill still needs to pass the House and be signed by Rauner, who called it a misguided effort.

Cook County voters were asked a similar non-binding question during the March 20 primary election, with 68 percent of respondents in favor of allowing recreational pot for adults over 21.

And, a poll conducted in early March by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale found two-thirds of Illinois residents support legalization.

The federal government could throw more uncertainty into Illinois’ plans. The U.S. Justice Department, under Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a longtime marijuana opponent, announced in January it would revoke guidance from the Obama administration that had discouraged prosecutors from enforcing federal marijuana laws in states that had legalized the drug.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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