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Rick Steves testifies for legal weed

Tuesday, Nov 28, 2017

* Press release…

Illinois could see up to $699 million in new revenue by legalizing cannabis use among adults through a measure that would spur economic development while protecting public safety. Lawmakers heard from advocates today during a combined Senate and House hearing.

Among those testifying was nationally-known travel writer and television host Rick Steves, an active proponent for ending America’s prohibition of marijuana.

“I’m not pro-drugs – I’m pro-civil liberties and anti-prohibition,” Steves said. “Marijuana is here to stay. We can either keep building more prisons or figure out a better solution. I think it’s obvious what the solution is, and it’s happening around the country as it did in my home state of Washington. We need to legalize the responsible use of marijuana by adults.”

“It is clear that prohibition doesn’t work and that by lifting cannabis restrictions we can encourage economic development in Illinois,” State Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago) said. “We are carefully considering all aspects and potential impacts of legalizing adult-use cannabis, including job growth.”

In addition to increased tax revenue, legalized cannabis could provide a boost for job growth in Illinois. According to a report from New Frontier Data earlier this year, the legal marijuana market could create more than 250,000 jobs in the U.S. by 2020. Legalizing adult-use marijuana creates a variety of jobs including scientists, dispensary employees, growers, among others.

“Legalizing cannabis will spur the creation of new small businesses and much-needed jobs,” State Representative Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago) said. “We are leaving hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity on the table by continuing the outdated status quo of prohibition.”

Tax revenue from the proposed legislation would support the State Board of Education; treatment and education programs for responsible marijuana, alcohol and tobacco use; and the state’s General Revenue Fund.

“In Washington, we have a track record and we know it works,” Steves said. “States like mine that have legalized marijuana have learned that use doesn’t go up, crime doesn’t go up, DUIs do not go up. The only thing that goes up is tax revenue, as we take the thriving illicit market and transform it into a highly regulated and highly taxed system.”

Today’s hearing was part of a series of hearings on the various aspects of legalizing cannabis use among adults. Changes to the legislation may be proposed in the new year based on these findings.

* Sun-Times

Black market marijuana has the effect of “empowering organized crime and gangs,” he said.

Steves testified before a joint House-Senate committee hearing at the Bilandic Building in the Loop, where he also warned against focusing too much on filling government coffers by taxing marijuana.

“The beauty of this, economically, is getting rid of the crime,” he said.

Over-taxation can lead marijuana users back to cheaper weed on the black market, he said.

Agreed on the over-taxation warning and about how doing nothing means we’re empowering the criminal element.

* One Republican state Senator wasn’t impressed…



* But Steves had a pretty good rebuttal

State Sen. Dan McConchie, a Republican from Hawthorn Woods, challenged Steves’ assertion that legalization has caused no problems elsewhere. McConchie cited studies suggesting increased adult use of marijuana in places that have legalized it, and called for better data on the question before acting.

“There’s been a number of broad-brush statements that you have made … but the data does not bear that out,” McConchie said. “Just because you legalize it doesn’t necessitate that all of these problems are going to go away. … I think we would be jumping the gun to legalize this in the absence of robust data.”

People will smoke pot whether it’s legal or not, Steves maintained, arguing that it’s much better to tax and regulate it rather than creating a criminal class of users. He testified that the marijuana industry is generating $300 million a year in tax revenue and 26,000 jobs in Washington, while reducing law enforcement and prison costs.

“Nothing has changed except there’s not people selling marijuana illegally on the streets. They’re selling it in the shops,” he said.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

39 Comments
  1. - DuPage Bard - Tuesday, Nov 28, 17 @ 3:42 pm:

    Pass it before the primary so Rauner can sign it and watch the McConchie’s and Ives’ of the world head explode.


  2. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Nov 28, 17 @ 3:42 pm:

    The hearing was streamed, long and covered the diverse issues at play. Glad to see tough questioning of those opposed as to their funding source. An individual gave $500k to defeat a cannabis ballot issue in Arizona and it was from an Opiate pill manufacturer. Opponents would not say what their funding source was.


  3. - Belle - Tuesday, Nov 28, 17 @ 3:43 pm:

    Go Rick Go!
    Until recently, I would have not been on the legalization side.
    But between knowing people that it helps (whose conditions are not covered by medical marijuana) and the tax dollars that are being made in CO, I’m all for this.


  4. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Nov 28, 17 @ 3:43 pm:

    Organized crime’s bought-and-paid for politicians were against the repeal of Prohibition, back in the day.

    –People will smoke pot whether it’s legal or not, Steves maintained, arguing that it’s much better to tax and regulate it rather than creating a criminal class of users. He testified that the marijuana industry is generating $300 million a year in tax revenue and 26,000 jobs in Washington, while reducing law enforcement and prison costs.–

    Nah, McConchie is a status quo guy, who would rather let violent criminals sell weed while locking up poor black people who smoke it on the taxpayer dime.


  5. - Amalia - Tuesday, Nov 28, 17 @ 3:47 pm:

    heard Rick on the radio and he was just great. One very compelling argument that he makes to legalize is that criminal sellers on the street also vend cocaine and heroin thereby tempting folks to the harder stuff. this is especially concerning with kids. Make it legal and the street action goes down. the only thing that goes up is tax revenue from sales!


  6. - igotgotgotgotnotime - Tuesday, Nov 28, 17 @ 3:52 pm:

    Just what can a reasonable person infer from McConchie’s ad homineum attack?
    That he’s got nothing to add to the debate at all.


  7. - Red fish blue fish - Tuesday, Nov 28, 17 @ 3:53 pm:

    ==People will smoke pot whether it’s legal or not, Steves maintained, arguing that it’s much better to tax and regulate it rather than creating a criminal class of users…

    “Nothing has changed except there’s not people selling marijuana illegally on the streets. They’re selling it in the shops,” ===

    This line of reasoning always bothers me. The same argument can used for legalizing crystal meth or heroin.

    I fully support legalizing recreational marijuana, but comments like the kind made in Steve’s rebuttal only serve to reinforce the false notion that Marijuana is in the same class as hard drugs.
    It’s not however. Marijuana needs to be regulated like Alcohol.


  8. - Swift - Tuesday, Nov 28, 17 @ 3:54 pm:

    What’s the deal with McConchie insulting a private citizen and targeting his livelihood? I tend to expect more professionalism from a state Senator (yes, even on Twitter). It be a shame if the pro-weed folks were to go after Senator McConchie’s livelihood.


  9. - Epic - Tuesday, Nov 28, 17 @ 3:59 pm:

    I can’t help but think people’s opposition to marijuana is just virtue signaling at it’s finest. That smug sense of superiority they get from opposing it is a greater high then could get from marijuana.


  10. - Responsa - Tuesday, Nov 28, 17 @ 4:01 pm:

    Steves’ comment about the cause-effect of over-taxing marijuana to raise state money (which can lead back to more, cheaper black market sales) is an important one. Sounds like he knows a thing or two about Illinois politicians.


  11. - NeverPoliticallyCorrect - Tuesday, Nov 28, 17 @ 4:02 pm:

    As a non drug user of any kind, including alcohol, I am not in favor of this but alcohol prohibition didn’t work and prohibiting marijuana isn’t working either. Anyone who wants it can get it. I don’t believe it will be as benign as some think but I doubt it will be worse that alcohol abuse.


  12. - IllinoisBoi - Tuesday, Nov 28, 17 @ 4:04 pm:

    I don’t like marijuana — it smells foul and turns some people into apathetic wastoids — but it’s ridiculous to criminalize it and spend millions to convict and imprison people (who are mostly minorities with no access to effective legal representation). Alcohol and tobacco have a far, far more negative effect on society.


  13. - Saluki - Tuesday, Nov 28, 17 @ 4:11 pm:

    Legalizing more mind alterting drugs is not a path to a more stable society.


  14. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Nov 28, 17 @ 4:15 pm:

    –Legalizing more mind alterting drugs is not a path to a more stable society.–

    Where did you get bromide, a fortune cookie?

    Can you not address the issues raised?


  15. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Nov 28, 17 @ 4:15 pm:

    ===Legalizing more mind alterting drugs is not a path to a more stable society. ===

    It would help your case if you learned how to spell.

    Also, they’re doing it anyway. Putting random people in prison for something this minor is destabilizing our society.


  16. - Phil King - Tuesday, Nov 28, 17 @ 4:18 pm:

    McChonchie’s argument is nonsensical.

    If you legalize something the data is going to show more use because people can freely admit to using it. There’s no downward bias in the survey results.

    But we have GREAT data from states that have legalized showing fewer opiod deaths, fewer traffic deaths, less money spent on enforcement, etc.

    In other words those “broad brush” statements are all proven by experience.


  17. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Nov 28, 17 @ 4:25 pm:

    –The same argument can used for legalizing crystal meth or heroin.–

    When’s the last time someone ODed on weed?

    By the way, meth and heroin are legal if you get a prescription, and you can fill it at your corner Walgreen’s.

    Abuse of legal prescription methamphetamine and opioids is a way bigger pubic health problem than illegal weed. Not even the same ballgame.


  18. - igotgotgotgotnotime - Tuesday, Nov 28, 17 @ 4:31 pm:

    Steve’s admonition about over-taxation of legal weed is somewhat overblown. Price isn’t the only determination of where a person buys their weed. Why anyone would run the risk involved in an illegal sale (getting arrested, ripped off, etc.) for a few dollars is beyond me.


  19. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Nov 28, 17 @ 4:34 pm:

    ===Why anyone would run the risk involved in an illegal sale (getting arrested, ripped off, etc.)===

    I think most people buy from friends.


  20. - Signal and Noise - Tuesday, Nov 28, 17 @ 4:35 pm:

    The arguments on the side of keeping prohibition in place are getting weaker and weaker by the day


  21. - Julie Bloom - Tuesday, Nov 28, 17 @ 4:38 pm:

    It needs to be legalized. I am not now nor have I ever smoked weed, pot, or whatever you call it. But plenty of doctors, politicians, judges and lawyers do. Until working a government job, I was amazed at who used what. They just keep it quiet. I just laugh when I hear some of them being against it. Some of the biggest anti approval are from drinkers and heavy ones at that. I would much rather be around a pot smoker than a drunk. I would rather the state get the money from it than the criminals. Legalize it and get it over with.


  22. - Rod - Tuesday, Nov 28, 17 @ 4:53 pm:

    I support legalization as long as fair warning is given the consumers of the long term mental health risks involved. For example there is research that shows marijuana users remembered less and processed information more slowly than the people who never smoked, even though the users didn’t smoke that day.

    The New England Journal of Medicine also has summarized these findings: 1 A little under half of people who seek treatment for marijuana dependence experience withdrawal when they try to quit, becoming anxious, irritable or depressed. While it does not reach the level of addition, it has problems of its own; 2 People who started smoking at young ages and who smoked most heavily showed the greatest drop in cognitive performance of users studied.

    So like with many things there are some risks involved, but they may be less than consistently drinking a six pack a day for years on end.


  23. - Interim Retiree - Tuesday, Nov 28, 17 @ 4:54 pm:

    I smoked a bit of weed in the early 1970s (and NEVER inhaled). With my knees aching, perhaps I should try again.


  24. - 47th Ward - Tuesday, Nov 28, 17 @ 5:04 pm:

    ===perhaps I should try again.===

    Pro tip: don’t smoke it, use a vaporizer or even better, try some edibles. If you go the edible route, I strongly recommend you visit a legal shop in CO or elsewhere and ask a lot of questions about proper dosage, expected effects, etc. Edibles often provoke a different experience than inhaled marijuana and it can be quite intense according to Maureen Dowd.


  25. - James the Intolerant - Tuesday, Nov 28, 17 @ 5:43 pm:

    As a longtime AA guy, I will say that the least trouble I ever got in was if I was only smoking marijuana. The downside I can see is that pot nowadays is not like it was in the past, this is high potentate stuff. But, people will smoke it anyway. Find a good test for DUI/marijuana, and lets get moving in that direction.


  26. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Nov 28, 17 @ 5:46 pm:

    Ok, cool. Now legalize, regulate and tax. Illinois thirsty government could use the extra $500,000,000.


  27. - duh - Tuesday, Nov 28, 17 @ 6:01 pm:

    The only tax that everyone would be happy to pay…
    Plus better for the judicial system and people in general. Not to mention it keeps people off opioids for pain, and then off heroine when they run of of pain meds…

    We allow people to drink themselves to liver failure and no one even cares about that… How many people die from drinking and DUIS, etc…

    Like Cigarettes and liquor… tax it and legalize it… duh.


  28. - anon2 - Tuesday, Nov 28, 17 @ 7:00 pm:

    === Just what can a reasonable person infer from McConchie’s ad homineum attack? ===

    The Senator cited studies showing increased adult usage in several states. That’s a legitimate issue that Stevers misrepresented.

    Just because marijuana is less harmful than alcohol does not make it harmless. Public health is affected if commercial legalization leads to lower prices — 67% lower in Washington State — intense marketing, advertising, and so forth to maximize consumption and profits.

    The model Illinois should adopt is tobacco, not alcohol. Tobacco use is declining, and social disapproval is increasing.


  29. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Nov 28, 17 @ 7:06 pm:

    anon2, I had a mother when I was a kid, I dont need you or McConchie as a nanny when I’m an adult.

    Unless you’re supportive of full prohibition for alcohol, tobacco, trans fats, etc., your selective reefer madness is just like your opinion, man, and not rational at all.


  30. - SSL - Tuesday, Nov 28, 17 @ 7:16 pm:

    Carefully implement and monitor, but get the ball rolling. There are a lot of people in Illinois who can benefit from legalized marijuana. It will help them forget about the horribly broken political system in Illinois.


  31. - Kentucky bluegrass x feathefbed bent x california sinsemilla - Tuesday, Nov 28, 17 @ 8:39 pm:

    They’re always for small government, except when it comes to my garden and my bedroom…


  32. - VanillaMan - Tuesday, Nov 28, 17 @ 9:54 pm:

    You people are so naive.

    Go to Amsterdam. Go to Denver. Stay there more than six months. Then tell us what you think.

    I have. Legalization creates real problems.

    Rick Steves is a professional tourist. He just moves on and never lives in the cities he thinks are so wonderful.

    Don’t take advice from a guy who lives out of a backpack except to ask him how he deals with bedbugs.


  33. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Nov 28, 17 @ 10:30 pm:

    “legalization creates real problems”

    Sure, but so does mass incarceration and criminalization.


  34. - ArchPundit - Tuesday, Nov 28, 17 @ 10:36 pm:

    ===Pro tip: don’t smoke it, use a vaporizer or even better, try some edibles

    Um…yeah. Tried it as a younger person and hated smoking it. When visiting a legal place the edibles I found were quite enjoyable.


  35. - ArchPundit - Tuesday, Nov 28, 17 @ 10:37 pm:

    ===Go to Denver. Stay there more than six months

    Snake Plissken is being sent in to Denver to retrieve the President.


  36. - DuPage Bard - Tuesday, Nov 28, 17 @ 11:02 pm:

    Interesting Senator McConchie wants government interference when it comes to marijuana.
    But everywhere else it’s the government interference that’s causing problems to private industry?
    Wonder if he believes that alcohol and cigarettes should be illegal as well?


  37. - Grandson of Man - Wednesday, Nov 29, 17 @ 8:29 am:

    “Go to Amsterdam. Go to Denver. Stay there more than six months. Then tell us what you think.”

    I’ve been to both places many times and I’ve seen nothing bad on the scale that’s being implied here. Those are two beautiful cities. The worst I saw was public consumption, and only a few instances.

    Plus, who has the right to stop responsible adults from consuming substances that are less harmful than alcohol? I thought conservatives are big on individual liberty.


  38. - jerry - Wednesday, Nov 29, 17 @ 10:01 am:

    - VanillaMan - Tuesday, Nov 28, 17 @ 9:54 pm:

    You people are so naive.

    Go to Amsterdam. Go to Denver. Stay there more than six months. Then tell us what you think.

    I have. Legalization creates real problems.

    I’ve lived in Denver for 3 years now. Never imbibed weed in that time, either.

    Guess what? It’s fine. The only significant effect is a booming economy. There haven’t been big problems with DWH (or whatever you want to call it). Crime rates have been stagnant at worst. Denver’s just grown incredibly fast during the past 3 years, with the accompanying problems of gentrification. We do have more homeless people now, and there is some causation there. Homeless youth relocating from other states.


  39. - Illinois Resident - Wednesday, Nov 29, 17 @ 7:03 pm:

    Relative to Colorado,the state is booming economically and some of that has to do with the legalization of cannabis. People are moving to Colorado. We need to get people moving to Illinois. Illinois needs to attract as much industry as it can. This is an easy fix from a social justice and economic standpoint. We need to keep the pressure on the politicians to move forward with cannabis legalization in our state.


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