The answer came back loud and clear, it is time.
That was the message from a cohort of elected officials at a press conference Monday in downtown Chicago that called for the legalization of recreational Marijuana in Illinois.
“The main difference between the War on Drugs and Prohibition is that, after 40 yrs, this country still has not acknowledged that the War on Drugs is a failure,” said Cook County Commissioner John Fritchey.
In what’s perhaps the strongest show of support yet for legalizing recreational Marijuana in Illinois, Mr. Fritchey was joined by State Representatives Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago), Christian Mitchell (D-Chicago) and Mike Zalewski (D-Riverside) in calling for a task force to address all aspects of legalizing recreational Marijuana.
“We can find a way to do this and look at what other states have done, and cherry pick the good ideas, dismiss the bad ideas and find a workable policy that recognizes what we’re doing now simply is not right,” Mr. Fritchey said.
Facing an empty state treasury, and a losing War on Drugs, some elected officials are seeing Marijuana as a lucrative option to boost tax revenue. In Colorado, where recreational Marijuana was recently legalized, the state netted roughly $2-M in tax revenue from licensed dispensaries during the 1st month of sales alone.
Illinois is still in the midst of crafting rules for its medical Marijuana pilot program, set to become the strictest in the nation.
Mr. Fritchey and others acknowledged the statewide legalization of Marijuana for recreational use is a ways off, but believe decriminalization is the 1st step.
Beyond tax revenue, Mr. Fritchey said decriminalization could soothe other issues, like the racial disparity in drug enforcement efforts and arrests.
“You see people getting swept off the streets on a daily basis on the South Side and the West Side,” Mr. Fritchey said, referencing predominantly Black and Latino areas of Chicago. “You do not see kids getting arrested in Lincoln Park.”
The pro-legalization lawmakers are not without their opponents, including the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police. At the conference, the group said legalizing recreational weed could be particularly dangerous for teens and motorists who may drive under the influence.
“The sky will not fall when Marijuana is decriminalized, and public opinion moves faster than legislators’. Look for Illinois to move immediately to decriminalize Marijuana as its 1st step toward legalizing recreational use of Marijuana.