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Legislators explain opposition to legalized pot, while Summers announces support

Thursday, Mar 30, 2017

* The Decatur Herald & Review interviewed some local legislators after the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute released a poll showing 66 percent of Illinoisans support legalizing marijuana

State Rep. Bill Mitchell, R-Forsyth, described himself as “old-fashioned” with his opposition to legalization, feeling it acts as a gateway drug to harder, illegal substances.

“I think it raises more problems than it could possibly answer,” he said. “With legalization, I don’t agree with it at all.”

However, Mitchell did say he would be open to some decriminalization in relation to marijuana.

State Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon, expressed similar sentiments about marijuana being a gateway drug, saying that legalization would increase the rate of homelessness and poverty as well as put a financial strain on social services who help people with addiction.

“You’re going to have ill effects with legalization, especially if Illinois is the only Midwestern state to do this,” Righter said.

State Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, said in an unrelated conference call Monday morning that he has not yet taken a stance on the matter, focusing most of his attention on school funding and a “grand bargain” budget bill. He did say he hopes the proposed plan starts a dialogue among lawmakers about legalization and that more information comes out in the coming months during hearings.

Hey, if we do become the only Midwestern state to legalize weed, the tourism potential would be pretty darned strong.

And why would legalized marijuana increase homelessness? There are plenty of homeless alcoholics, so should we ban their hugely addictive substance? Also, plenty of highly productive folks use marijuana. That argument is a total red herring. And a gateway drug? Dude, the 1980s called, it want its propaganda back. Also, you might as well ban beer, because it’s often a “gateway drug” to whiskey.

I mean, heck, even the curmudgeons at the Champaign News-Gazette grudgingly admitted this week that times have changed

But it seems obvious that more and more people expect less bad to result from law enforcement’s expansive and hugely expensive efforts to reduce consumption of a product in wide demand.

…Adding… As mentioned in comments, there are some very real gateway drugs that lead to the abuse of some truly dangerous substances, so maybe focus on those?

The so-called “Heroin Highway” from Chicago to Kane County is thriving, Kane County Sheriff’s Department officials said in Aurora.

“We are getting killed by heroin,” Kane County Sheriff’s Sgt. Aaron Feiza said at a forum in Aurora, calling the current situation a crisis.

Dealers from primarily Chicago’s West Side are bringing heroin into the Aurora area with a higher potency than before, which is causing more overdose deaths throughout the county, he said. […]

Thefts, burglaries and other crimes are up in Kane County and 99 percent of the time the crimes are associated with addiction, [Kane County Sheriff’s Sgt. Aaron Feiza] said.

He estimates 95 percent of heroin addicts he’s dealt with started using prescription drugs first. Prescription drugs often are more expensive - one pill can cost between $70 and $80, he said. Heroin becomes a cheaper alternative, Feiza said. A bag of heroin costs $10 or $15 for the same kind of high, he said.

…Adding More… Crain’s

Private insurance claims related to opioid abuse and dependence diagnoses increased 329 percent in Illinois between 2007 and 2014, according to data from Fair Health, a New York-based nonprofit that seeks to increase transparency in health care costs.

In Chicago alone, such claims increased 382 percent over the seven-year period.

Robin Gelburd, president of Fair Health—which analyzed more than 23 billion claims from more than 150 million privately insured Americans—says that while Chicago’s claims increased at a greater rate than the state’s, the city’s proportion of opioid claims remains smaller than that of the rest of Illinois, based on population.

Citing U.S. Census data from last year, she says Chicago represents 21 percent of Illinois’ overall population but only 14 percent of opioid-related diagnoses.

* Will there be problems with legalization? Of course there will be. But this failed national war on pot is hurting far more lives than the actual use of the product.

Also, Sen. Manar, way to stick your neck out, bud.

* Meanwhile, you’ll recall that I asked the Democratic gubernatorial candidates this week about their own position on the topic. I heard back from Kurt Summers last night…

I support the legalization of marijuana if the goals of the legislation are to take power away from gangs and reduce drug-related violence. The impact of the legislation should be to divert resources from arresting and prosecuting low-level, non-violent offenders to focus on those who seek to harm others. Our communities have been under siege for too long for this to be passed without support from community leaders and law enforcement officials. This isn’t just a criminal justice issue, it’s a public health issue, and we must commit the proper resources to address these issues responsibly.

…Adding… Tribune

Chicago Treasurer Kurt Summers is continuing his flirtation with a run for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2018, sending an email to supporters explaining why he’s weighing a bid and alerting them to an upcoming fundraiser.

In the Wednesday night email, titled “New Leadership in Illinois,” Summers says he’s been meeting with community leaders, union workers, business owners and others about a possible run and concluded that “Illinois needs someone who will fix our budget deficit, create jobs, improve education and fight for working people day-in and day-out.”

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Former Downstater - Thursday, Mar 30, 17 @ 9:56 am:

    If you’re concerned about “gateway” drugs leading to addiction, worry more about opioids and overprescribing.

  2. - A Jack - Thursday, Mar 30, 17 @ 10:02 am:

    Perhaps you rural Republicans should ask the farmers in your district whether they wouldn’t like to increase their income by growing the stuff. If Canada legalizes in the next year, you just blew all that potential farm income.

  3. - TominChicago - Thursday, Mar 30, 17 @ 10:07 am:

    Does the RNC give free copies of Reefer Madness to every elected Republican. There is absolutely no evidence that marijuana is a gateway drug. As Rich points out, alcohol’s proven societal costs is a known but no one wants to do prohibition again. Oxy is a proven gateway drug to heroin but as long as Perdue Pharma keeps contributing, there is no pushback on that.

  4. - Homer J. Quinn - Thursday, Mar 30, 17 @ 10:08 am:

    sugar is the real gateway drug but getting kids hooked on that is the focus of several major holidays and a whole advertising industry.

    and the dems will keep losing until they learn that nobody wants to hear mealymouthed equivocations anymore. we don’t need concern -trolling, we need you to explain why those concerns are worth putting someone in jail every 25 seconds. they’re not, and you know it, so SAY IT.

  5. - AlfondoGonz - Thursday, Mar 30, 17 @ 10:12 am:

    “feeling it acts as a gateway drug to harder, illegal substances.”

    With all due respect, Representative, how you “feel” means nothing. Do some research, with an open mind, and once you are informed, perhaps you’ll “feel” differently.

  6. - Grandson of Man - Thursday, Mar 30, 17 @ 10:13 am:

    “Hey, if we do become the only Midwestern state to legalize weed, the tourism potential would be pretty darned strong.”

    It would have great potential, because neighboring states are Republican states, and if we could judge from the comments by Republican GA members in this thread, we’d be the only sellers in the region. That would be great for Illinois’ economy and for government coffers.

    This is a very important issue to me as a voter, for many reasons. One reason, I’d think, is it could help the Democratic gubernatorial candidate win by driving up turnout.

    Democrats, will you carefully consider seizing this chance and supporting this? It could be a winning issue.

  7. - @misterjayem - Thursday, Mar 30, 17 @ 10:24 am:

    For the sake of argument, let’s assume for a moment that wacky tobacky acts as a ‘gateway’ to hard drug use.

    Now if that is so, why would that be so?

    Is it simply because ganja is an intoxicant? No, that can’t be the answer because legal alcohol is also an intoxicant. And we don’t prohibit alcohol as a gateway drug.

    If marijuana is a ‘gateway’ to hard drug use, it is because prohibition forces people who want to use marijuana to purchase it from people who sell illegal intoxicants. And people who sell illegal intoxicants are the sometimes type of people who might say, “Hey, you enjoy that illegal intoxicant, I’ll bet you’d also like this illegal intoxicant!”

    It ain’t rocket science people.

    The gateway problem isn’t that marijuana is a gateway drug. The actual gateway problem is that, by law, the purchase of marijuana is a gateway transaction.

    And that gateway transaction problem can be effectively eliminated by legalization of marijuana.

    – MrJM

  8. - Ahoy! - Thursday, Mar 30, 17 @ 10:26 am:

    “You’re going to have ill effects with legalization”

    We have ill effects with criminalization too, but does the current system offer more of a benefit than a cost? I would say no, so it’s time for changing.

  9. - Foster brooks - Thursday, Mar 30, 17 @ 10:27 am:

    Most well paying employer’s drug test. How’s that going to work out

  10. - The 647 - Thursday, Mar 30, 17 @ 10:32 am:

    I’ve been wanting Manar to run for governor for a while. I thought he would be a great candidate. No more.

  11. - Johnnie F. - Thursday, Mar 30, 17 @ 10:34 am:

    Plain and simple, Rauner is against it and therefore all Republican (Raunerite) Legislators are against it. Rauner doesn’t want it b/c it would provide significant revenue that many taxpayers would be eager to pay. Besides, how could he rationalize staving all his beasts when there would be 800 million in new food? Goes back to the last campaign where he couldn’t name a business he built or jobs he created…he only tears things down and neglects real possibilities…all for his ideologue ways.

  12. - A Jack - Thursday, Mar 30, 17 @ 10:36 am:

    Mr JM has a very valid point. Few illegal substance dealers only deal in one illegal substance.

    Indeed, if part of their business dries up, perhaps dealers will move to Indiana where they can recoup that part of their lost income. And Illinois would benefit from the supply side loss of substances that are actually addictive.

  13. - Johnnie F. - Thursday, Mar 30, 17 @ 10:37 am:

    Plain and simple, Rauner is against it and therefore all Republican (Raunerite) Legislators are against it. Rauner doesn’t want it b/c it would provide significant revenue that many taxpayers would be eager to pay. Besides, how could he rationalize staving all his beasts when there would be 800 million in new food? Goes back to the last campaign where he couldn’t name a business he built or jobs he created…he only tears things down and neglects real possibilities.

  14. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Mar 30, 17 @ 10:42 am:

    ===How’s that going to work out ===

    Several also test for alcohol use on the job. How’s that working out?

  15. - Ractin - Thursday, Mar 30, 17 @ 10:45 am:

    I say, legalize all of it - marijuana, heroin, everything. Just provide rehab. Sure, OD’s will rise, but that will be brief. Just imagine the savings.

  16. - Homer J. Quinn - Thursday, Mar 30, 17 @ 10:52 am:

    Portugal decriminalized everything as Ractin suggests, and found it to be a successful policy.

  17. - @misterjayem - Thursday, Mar 30, 17 @ 10:52 am:

    “Most well paying employer’s drug test. How’s that going to work out”

    The military also tests for weed, but as an Army Ranger once told me: The solution to pollution is dilution.

    – MrJM

  18. - wordslinger - Thursday, Mar 30, 17 @ 10:58 am:

    Sen. Mitchell, in your life, how many people do you know in which marijuana was a “gateway drug” to heroin?

    Same question, prescription opioids to heroin or super-scary fentanyl?

    How many deaths in your experience from a marijuana OD? A prescription opioid or heroin OD?

    “Old-fashioned” is not an excuse for “beyond reason.”

    Use your head.

  19. - downstate commissioner - Thursday, Mar 30, 17 @ 11:13 am:

    Re drug testing: we are drug tested. Never been a problem; people who work here understand that they can’t do drugs. Heard from other commissioners (usually the ones with larger number of employees) that some employees have simply quit when the drug tester shows up.
    As a personal note, I never tried marijuana when I was younger due to the inhalent allergies I had. But it is definitely on my “bucket list” after I retire, legal or illegal.

  20. - Anon - Thursday, Mar 30, 17 @ 11:21 am:

    === However, Mitchell did say he would be open to some decriminalization in relation to marijuana.===

    Rep. Mitchell, like most of his caucus, voted against medical marijuana, even though it was a modest proposal with much stricter regs than elsewhere. Since they wanted to prohibit sick people from getting relief, what are the chances they’ll want to let recreational users get high?

  21. - Anon - Thursday, Mar 30, 17 @ 11:23 am:

    === “You’re going to have ill effects with legalization” ===

    Indubitably. That’s why the type of legalization matters. Commercial legalization as with alcohol means more problms, as with alcohol.

  22. - Anon Downstate - Thursday, Mar 30, 17 @ 11:24 am:

    If you really want to get to the root of the problems, it starts with what are called Pharmacy Benefit Managers, or PBMs:

    The link is:

    PBMs may even have contributed to the worst public health crisis in America—the opioid epidemic. An investigation by Stat News:

    Link is:

    “When they say it’s not about the money, it’s ALWAYS about the money”

  23. - Peoria Citizen - Thursday, Mar 30, 17 @ 11:28 am:

    Those who are afraid of marijuana legalization have never used it. How can they understand something they’ve never even tried. ALL evidence proves that marijuana is harmless.

    The fact is, this will be legal at some point in time. 3, 5 or 10 years down the road. All you’re doing is putting off the inevitable, continuing to overcrowd jails and prisons, costing tax payers money with the failed “war on drugs”, and missing out on some nice tax income for the state.

    Long story short, don’t knock it until you try it! :)

  24. - Ducky LaMoore - Thursday, Mar 30, 17 @ 11:30 am:

    ===feeling it acts as a gateway drug to harder, illegal substances.===

    Gateway drugs are gateway because you have to go to a criminal to get them. That criminal then introduces his customers to the “harder, illegal substances.” If you have to go to a legit business, it ain’t a gateway. So… the argument makes absolutely no sense. If you don’t want marijuana to be a “gateway drug,” then you legalize it!

  25. - Ghost - Thursday, Mar 30, 17 @ 11:39 am:

    Just spit balling here…. but lets do a reverse anti-smoking moment. legalize marijuana and allow casinos to have special marijuana lounges….. get tourists, mellow them out and let em gamble 😀

  26. - thechampaignlife - Thursday, Mar 30, 17 @ 11:41 am:

    If we end up with decrim instead of legalization, at the very least we need to ensure that the revenue from fines does not create a conflict of interest or barrier to future legalization. Give all the money to Ag or some other entity that would benefit more from legalization than they stand to lose from fines going away.

  27. - Langhorne - Thursday, Mar 30, 17 @ 11:58 am:

    Such visionaries. Grow a pair.

    If you want to oppose it, do some real research.
    See if you can find a legit reason to oppose it.
    Something more than brucies buddies. Anecdotal
    Scare stories. Or outdated biases. Really, try.

  28. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Mar 30, 17 @ 12:04 pm:

    ===If we end up with decrim===

    We have that now.

  29. - Cubs in '16 - Thursday, Mar 30, 17 @ 12:08 pm:

    ===if we do become the only Midwestern state to legalize weed, the tourism potential would be pretty darned strong.===

    Four words…

    Willis Tower while high

  30. - anon2 - Thursday, Mar 30, 17 @ 12:09 pm:

    === ALL evidence proves that marijuana is harmless. ===

    Less harmful than alcohol does not equal “harmless.” Cannabis Use Disorder is a real and rising problem. A legalization process that denies this reality is bound to fail.

  31. - Homer J. Quinn - Thursday, Mar 30, 17 @ 12:20 pm:

    Ghost: the problem with that is weed makes you realize things like “this casino was built with the money people lost” and then it seems like a waste to gamble.

  32. - Anonymous - Thursday, Mar 30, 17 @ 12:36 pm:

    When do we get our own High Court?

  33. - Sigh - Thursday, Mar 30, 17 @ 12:36 pm:

    Gateway drug to illegal substances? Where has Mitchell been the past 2 years? His local tv statfion has ran several stories showing prescription painkillers are the gateway drug to heroin.

    Has Mitchell or Righter looked at the opioid overdose rates in their communities?

  34. - Vole - Thursday, Mar 30, 17 @ 12:57 pm:

    Gateway — my dad’s booze cabinet.

    Illinois — least likely state in the Midwest to get legalization right if it were of a mind to do it.

  35. - thechampaignlife - Thursday, Mar 30, 17 @ 1:04 pm:

    @Rich re:”We have that now.”

    I totally forgot about that. But, that makes Mitchell’s statement much more confusing:

    ===However, Mitchell did say he would be open to some decriminalization in relation to marijuana===

  36. - 51st ward - Thursday, Mar 30, 17 @ 1:21 pm:

    Not a fan of weed but feel its no worse than booze. we have plenty of breweries, wineries and distilleries. Legalization can lead to regulation of the product plus tax money. Let the farmers grow it, a manufacturer turn it into a consistent product, a distributor distribute it and retailers sell it. that will result in economic activity. ie jobs

  37. - frisbee - Thursday, Mar 30, 17 @ 1:29 pm:

    Farmers in Illinois want to grow it, just ask them. Whether it is hemp or psychoactive cannabis they want more options besides corn and soy. Very few agricultural commodities fetch the price tag that cannabis does and as it becomes legal in more places the prices will drop. So long as the excise taxes don’t maintain an underground market there is definitely a first mover advantage for our midwestern state. If Michigan beats us to it imagine how bad traffic will be coming back to Chicago on Sunday afternoons of holiday weekends!

  38. - Mr Gateway - Thursday, Mar 30, 17 @ 2:10 pm:

    Comparisons with alcohol are false for a number of reasons. The simplest is that alcohol content is a known, whereas THC content of marijuana is often not known, and not much is known about it. I urge Rich and commenters to learn more about marijuana abuse - from experts, such as the prevention and treatment field in Illinois, before offering opinions.

  39. - Homer J. Quinn - Thursday, Mar 30, 17 @ 2:18 pm:

    THC content by percentage, along with CBD and CBN, is tested and provided to the consumer in legal states. as for “not much is known about it,” well, maybe not by you…

  40. - @misterjayem - Thursday, Mar 30, 17 @ 2:22 pm:

    “THC content of marijuana is often not known”

    Because it must be purchased from a friend of a friend.

    During Prohibition, the alcohol content of bootleg booze was ‘often not known’ too. Know how we solved that problem? We legalized it.

    I urge you to learn more about Prohibition and its consequences, before offering opinions.

    – MrJM

  41. - Grandson of Man - Thursday, Mar 30, 17 @ 2:27 pm:

    Some people’s statements make them look like the last 50 years passed them by. We’ve failed so abysmally at stopping illegal marijuana. One can find marijuana consumers in so many areas of life, whether at colleges, family, friends or friends of friends, acquaintances, coworkers, neighbors, you name it.

    Please, let us wise up and stop this failure, since we can’t even remotely stop marijuana use. Let us channel cannabis into legality, where we will benefit far more than we do now.
    We can have restrictions, regulations, you name it. We can do this responsibly if we really try.

    We Americans are supposed to be bold and innovative. Let’s go forward with this please.

  42. - frisbee - Thursday, Mar 30, 17 @ 4:02 pm:

    Mr. Gateway by prevention experts are you referring to McGruff the Crime Dog because the actor who played him was caught in 2011 with 1,000 pot plants

  43. - wordslinger - Thursday, Mar 30, 17 @ 5:52 pm:

    Here’s a very short column on the opioid epidemic with further names and ideas on where to research to how we got here today.

    Some horrifying facts:

    – Prescription opioid deaths were rare until the 1990s.

    – Since 1995, there have been 183,000 and prescription opioid deaths and counting.

    – 1995 is when Purdue Pharma introduced and began aggressively marketing Oxycontin.

    – Since 1995, Purdue Pharma has derived $35B in revenue from Oxy.

    – In 2007, Purdue Pharma as a corporation and three execs pleaded guilty to criminal felony charges of lying about Oxys dangers to regulators, doctors and the public. They paid a total of $635M in fines.

    – To recap: 183,000 deaths
    $35B in revenue
    $635M in fines
    0 days in prison.

    El Chapo would take that deal any day of the week.

  44. - MyTwoCents - Thursday, Mar 30, 17 @ 6:56 pm:

    To me the people who argue marijuana is a gateway drug always look at the picture backward. They always talk about the people who use other drugs that also use pot but they never talk about the people who only ever use marijuana and if pot’s this big gateway drug shouldn’t all those people be addicted to other drugs?

  45. - Biker - Thursday, Mar 30, 17 @ 10:33 pm:

    Thank you Treasurer Summers!

  46. - Rabid - Friday, Mar 31, 17 @ 9:49 am:

    Prevention and treatment. The dare program and your success rate with insurance company’s

  47. - Anonymous - Friday, Mar 31, 17 @ 10:08 am:

    A Jack- “…rural Republicans should ask the farmers in your district whether they wouldn’t like to increase their income by growing the stuff.”

    You really can’t convey the arrogant self-righteousness that some of these small town officials possess when it comes to any sort of sane public policy. For example, now that the state has decriminalized marijuana under ten grams, the Whiteside county board has a proposed ordinance with fine up to $1000(!) for possession. Why? Revenue, then tow the car for impound fees, etc. Plus it has the added benefit of giving the waxworks on the county board someone to look down on: those dirty potheads.

    Meanwhile the road signs are filled with bullet holes (that’s just “kids” having a good time) the road ditches are overflowing with beer cans, and deputy Jeffrey Wunderlich is being sued by the widow of the motorcyclist he killed on Route 30. Maybe the small town types should look in the mirror at their own problems before they take on complex public policy issues like marijuana legalization.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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* South Side Sox Roster Ranking: Round 21
* White Sox go deep five times in six frames

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