Legalizing Marijuana: How Illinois can Benefit

Robert Kukla, Arts & Life Editor

In grade school, during D.A.R.E, a program designed to teach younger students about the dangers of drugs, we were instilled with the fear that marijuana is the gateway drug that would eventually land us in jail. During my first and only experience, I did not land in jail. I did eat an entire pot of spaghetti, forgot about it and was looking for the culprit responsible for my now empty bowl.

This idea of the gateway drug continues to be a big stigma that has carried over into the debate of whether or not it should be legalized. This stigma tends to overlook the benefits of the natural plant that could help millions of people.

Marijuana is a natural herb that can be used to help relieve cancer-related symptoms and help patients cope with anxiety. The legalization of marijuana is an ongoing, polarizing debate. Despite the conservative opposition, there are many people who support it.

With marijuana currently legal in eight states, Illinois lawmakers held a hearing where they proposed legalizing the herb for adults age 21 or older in November 2017.

At the hearing, issues and controversies surrounding the proposition were addressed including how its passing could potentially benefit the state.

According to an article from a monthly newsletter called Taxpayers’ Federation of Illinois, it is estimated that the revenue Illinois would make from legalized marijuana would be between $53 million to $115.2 million.

The article was featured on the blog Reboot Illinois, and I feel that the estimated revenue is a substantial amount of money that can be used towards education and other important areas where funding is needed. Also, seeing as that Illinois is in a financial crisis for several years now, the state needs a source of revenue. I feel marijuana would be a way to go, with it’s growing popularity.

This debate is increasingly popular with millennials who are open to the idea of legalization of the natural herb.  

NEIU student Raquel Gomez said, “Marijuana should be legalized. One reason is that it would help many people dealing with medical issues such as diabetes, cancer, anxiety, chronic pain, etc. It would also help Chicago’s economy. The money made by taxing marijuana could go to funding for schools and would help the city not be in the red zone all the time.”

Its legalization would allow people to have a natural remedy for their symptoms and something that could, in most cases, improve their health.  

In fact, according to an article from the Colorado Epilepsy Foundation, a study where 261 children were treated with cannabis for seizures resulted in 47 percent of them noticing a reduction in seizure activity after 8-12 weeks.

With more research emerging on the benefits of marijuana, legalizing it will give patients easier access to something that can strongly improve their illness.

With marijuana still criminalized, the incarceration rate keeps increasing, especially among minorities who have higher rates of jail time for non-violent crimes. According to Drug War Facts, a nonprofit that is dedicated to reforming drug policy, the African-American population in California is 4 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana, twelve times more likely to be imprisoned for a marijuana felony, and 3 times more likely to be imprisoned per marijuana possession arrest.

Rick Steves is an American travel writer and a long time proponent for the legalization of marijuana, helping his home state of Washington legalize the herb.

In an article from ABC 7 News, he stated, “Seventy thousand people are locked up in our country every year, 700,000 people are arrested, for possession of marijuana, not violent crimes.”

Steves went on to say that the majority of people being arrested are not white people but people of color. American Civil Liberties Union reported that despite the relative equal usage of marijuana, blacks are 3.73 times more likely to get arrested for possession than whites.

The notion that marijuana causes an increase in violence is a myth. According to ACLU, out of the 8.2 million marijuana arrests in 2010, 88 percent were simply for possession.

Even though opposition remains, the decriminalization of marijuana saw an increase in support, including from myself. According to Illinois Policy, an independent organization aiming to generate public policy solutions to benefit Illinois, two-thirds of voters support legalizing marijuana for recreational use if it is regulated and taxed like alcohol.

The many benefits to the herb can bring cannot be ignored. Not only can it medically help several people, but it will result in a drop in unnecessary arrests which cost Illinois money, and it will bring significant revenue to our state.