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Should Recreational Marijuana Be Legal? Travel Expert Rick Steves Pushes For Legalization

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The push to legalize recreational marijuana in Illinois is getting some star power help.

CBS 2's Susanna Song has more from the Thompson Center on one man's crusade to make it happen.

Should recreational marijuana be legal?

It is a contentious debate all over the country and it's no different here in Illinois.

Travel expert, Rick Steves is testifying Tuesday at a State Senate hearing. He spoke to CBS 2 earlier.

"What we need to do is take that black market down and turn it into a highly regulated, highly taxed legal market so that we can gain credibility and focus on the real risk to young people in our society which is hard drug abuse," Steves said.

Steves said prohibition does not work. He said this is not about being pro-pot. He knows it can be dangerous, but said it's time to stop making it criminal.

His travels in Europe opened his eyes.

He also studied the effects legalization has had on Colorado and his home state of Washington. He said more people are not using it.

State Senators Kelly Cassidy and Heather Steans are the lead sponsors of the bill to regulate cannabis. They estimate legalization could generate up to $700 million for the state every year.

"It would enable individuals to buy and possess up to 28 grams or grow five plants, just for adult use," Steans said.

David Smith, executive director of the Illinois Family Institute adamantly opposes this bill, saying this is not good public policy and it will lead to increased addictions and more highway deaths and ER visits.

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