The marijuana legalization debate is beginning to heat up in Illinois, with many prominent politicians proposing recreational bills. And now the state's legislature is starting to take notice.
The Illinois legislature has begun hearings to determine whether the state should legalize marijuana. The state is allowing various experts and other political figures to testify about the pros and cons of legalizing cannabis. On Monday Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle testified about the racial disparity in enforcing marijuana laws. (Cook County contains the city of Chicago.) She told a story about her daughter visiting Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois and seeing students openly smoking marijuana. Meanwhile in poorer areas of the state, marijuana possession can lead to years in jail.
“My youngest, who is college aged, went to visit one of her friends up at Northwestern and she came back and she said, ‘Mom, you won’t believe it. The kids walk up and down the streets smoking dope, and nobody says anything," said Preckwinkle. “And then she said, ‘You know, if my friends and I did this in our neighborhood we’d be arrested.'”
As a fairly recent Northwestern alum, I would like to point out that I never saw anyone "walking up and down the streets smoking dope," but the overall point about suburban kids using cannabis without punishment while poorer minorities cannot is a valid argument.
Many people believe the fate of marijuana legalization in Illinois relies on the outcome of next November's gubernatorial election. Incumbent Republican Governor Bruce Rauner says he does not support legalizing marijuana recreationally. Meanwhile, two of the Democrats (J.B. Pritzker and Daniel Biss) running for the gubernatorial nomination support legalization, and another one supports decriminalization and further research into the issue (Chris Kennedy). If Rauner loses re-election to any of these Democrats, there's a very real possibility Illinois could legalize marijuana in 2019.
(h/t Chicago Sun-Times)