Marijuana and the Governor

Governor Bruce Rauner recently vetoed a bill that would have added another eleven conditions, including PTSD, to those already legally approved in Illinois for treatment with medical marijuana. He also killed the four-year extension of the state’s current pilot program, set to expire in January 2018; the governor approved only a four-month extension. Rauner said that a longer extension would be “premature” since the pilot program has not been evaluated because no MMJ has yet been sold in Illinois.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Lou Lang, said that the governor’s veto will result in higher prices for MMJ users because dispensary owners will need to make their investments back sooner, since they will also be unable to plan for a future for their businesses should the pilot program fail. Lang is concerned that MMJ users will instead buy their pot illegally.

The 50th Ward’s Green Gate Compassion Center has yet to receive final approval from the Chicago Zoning Board of Appeals, and the alderman remains opposed.

Last Saturday morning I ran a quick errand on California. I didn’t have my cell phone with me. As I was walking west on Devon between Fairfield and California, three young boys rode past me on bicycles. The oldest was no more than 12 or 13, the other two approximately 9 and 10. The two younger boys went into the discount store on the corner, while the older boy lingered at the window of the nearby charity shop, rolling a joint. He was smoking it as the other boys returned, and they sped off.

With all the focus lately on blocking access to medical marijuana by the seriously ill, I have to marvel at just how easy it is for kids this boy’s age to get the illegal stuff. He’s clearly not concerned with being caught, probably because he knows his age will count in his favor and he’s probably not carrying enough for serious legal trouble. The code of the streets means he’d never tell where he got it.

Gov. Rauner supports decriminalizing marijuana but wants to proceed at a slower pace than the legislature has in mind. He recently vetoed a bill that would have increased the amount of cannabis an individual could possess (to 15 grams) while lowering fines (to $55-$125). Using his amendatory powers, the governor lowered the amount to 10 grams, with fines between $100-$200.

Seeing this kid on Saturday, I thought about how easy it is to get pot on the street, and how hard we’re making it for patients to buy it legally. The war on drugs has failed. I think we should legalize marijuana, regulate sales, and tax the hell out of it.

At the very least, we should do a better job of keeping it away from 12-year-old kids.

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