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Central Illinois Headlines – March 28, 2024

Firm predicts higher hemp and cannabis sales in Illinois this year

Oregon-based Whitney Economics says Illinois will generate about 2.2 billion dollars in cannabis sales this year, an increase of more than $200 million over last year. Whitney predicts sales will increase steadily through 2030 before hitting a plateau and leveling off around 3.4 billion dollars annually. Illinois cannabis growth was slow in 2023 because Missouri legalized recreational use and Illinois license holders dealt with delays. A spokesperson for the state agency that oversees licensing says he’s not seen the numbers from Whitney Economics but has long contended revenues will increase as more facilities come online. The state says 203 dispensaries are operating right now, and licenses to open 175 more have been issued. – Alex Degman, Illinois Public Radio Statehouse reporter

Activists protest efforts to restrict access to Mifepristone

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments this week, for and against efforts to restrict access to the abortion medication Mifepristone. Later that same day, a small group of activists gathered at the Champaign County Courthouse in Urbana to protest efforts to limit the drug. Julie Laut is founder of Urbana-Champaign Reproductive Justice. She says she’s been advocating for abortion rights since she underwent her own abortion back in 1992.

“My hope is that these kinds of times that we have an opportunity to get people together to talk about these issues, leads them to be curious about others and become active in the broader movement,” said Laut. Medication abortions accounted for 63 percent of all US abortions last year. That’s an increase from 53 percent in 2020. UCRJ is showing a short documentary on Friday with Illini Students for Reproductive Justice. – Mae Antar, IPM News

State Supreme Court will hear the case of Jussie Smollett

The Illinois Supreme Court on Wednesday agreed to hear the case of actor Jussie Smollett, who was convicted of staging a hate crime against himself in 2019. Capitol News Illinois reports at the time, Smollett was on the FOX drama “Empire,” and made what turned out to be a false police report alleging that he’d been violently attacked by two men in downtown Chicago. The men punched him yelled homophobic slurs and put a noose around his neck.

But Smollett was later charged with putting on the hoax, and the two attackers later testified the actor had paid them to do it. Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx was roundly criticized after prosecutors dropped the charges against Smollett, and then appointed a special prosecutor who charged him again, resulting in his 2021 conviction. But Smollett, whose 150-day sentence has been put on hold while he appeals the case, claims it was a legal misstep to charge him again. In December, a state appellate court disagreed. – Capitol News Illinois

Fighting Illinois Basketball Teams take on their next March Madness opponents

The fighting Illinois women’s basketball team is taking on the Tulsa Golden Hurricanes on Thursday. Tip-off is at 6:30 p-m in Oklahoma. Illinois won their first two Women’s Basketball Invitation Tournament matchups.

The fighting Illini men’s basketball team will face the Iowa State Cyclones Thursday night at 9:09 in Boston. Illinois has advanced to the sweet sixteen for the first time since 2005.  – Reginald Hardwick, IPM News

Picture of Reginald Hardwick

Reginald Hardwick

Reginald Hardwick is the News & Public Affairs Director for the Illinois Newsroom. He started at WILL in October of 2019 after serving as News Director for WKAR in East Lansing, Michigan. Previously, he was a news producer and manager at the NBC station in Dallas, where he won 7 Emmy awards. Born in Vietnam, Reginald is a graduate of the University of Northern Colorado. Email: rh14@illinois.edu Twitter: @RNewsWILL

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