Recreational marijuana use in Illinois
Legalizing recreational marijuana was the topic of discussion at the state Capitol Wednesday.
No action was actually taken by lawmakers, but a public hearing was held to discuss the pros and cons as two bills have been circulating on the topic of legalizing recreational marijuana use.
Republican Senator Dale Righter, of Mattoon, said, "I saw lots of young people who smoked marijuana and didn't go any further, but I never saw one that was on a harder drug who didn't start with marijuana."
Wednesday's discussion also looked at evidence from other states - like Washington - that have legalized recreational use. Democratic State Representative Kelly Cassidy, of Chicago, said, "[There was] evidence that non-medical legalization in Washington and Oregon may have led to a drop in rape and murder rates."
However, law enforcement personnel say in other states that have already legalized recreational use, there have been spikes in illegal growth, explosions and marijuana use around children in homes. They also say testing marijuana is difficult and expensive. "Testing for cannabis requires it...to be sent to a private lab, which costs the Illinois police departments hundreds of dollars per test," said Terry Lemming, with the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police.
Those in support of legalization say the nation should have learned from alcohol prohibition. "I don't think that worked very well for us as a nation," said Neil Franklin, the Executive Director of the Law Enforcement Action Partnership. "That's why we ended it after 13 years of it being in place."
Others are concerned about more people driving under the influence of marijuana, and creating dangerous situations on Illinois roads. Sangamon County State's Attorney John Milhiser said, "I will then have to go, like I did for the last several years, to a mom to tell her 16-year-old daughter who's been driving for a month was just killed on the road by somebody who had alcohol and cannabis in his system."
There will be public hearings in the future on topics around the legalization of marijuana, including one on public health and another on economic development.