Add a Republican senator from Central Illinois to the growing list of Illinois lawmakers who say the state should legalize recreational marijuana.

State Sen. Jason Barickman, R-Bloomington, says he is ready to support legal, recreational marijuana if the law is written correctly.

"I think fiscal conservatives need to be in this debate," Barickman said Tuesday. "It is inevitable that this is going to happen. Our opportunity is either to sit on the sidelines and watch how it happens, and not influence the outcome or put ourselves at the negotiating table."

Barickman says that way he can try and shape how a legal, recreational marijuana program will work. And he can shape how the hundreds of millions of dollars that Illinois could see in new taxes is spent.

"I would like to see these revenues pay down our backlog of bills, our debt, our pension liabilities," Barickman said. "I'd like to see us move our income tax rates."

Industry experts say legal, recreational marijuana in Illinois could be worth as much as $700 million a year.

Barickman said he's ready to vote yes for legal marijuana, but not to co-sponsor the plan. He expects other Republicans to also endorse marijuana, and he hopes Gov. Bruce Rauner changes his mind.

Barickman said marijuana supporters are modifying the existing legalization legislation. He hopes to see a new plan in February of 2018.

Lawmakers could vote next year, but many speculate that a vote won't occur until after the November 2018 gubernatorial election.



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