Drop The Absurd Medical Regulations, Time To Legalize Marijuana In Illinois

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Sometimes it seems like everything our state government tries to do turns out wrong.

It created and expanded a pension system for public employees that it has almost never properly funded. It raised income taxes and was finally getting its fiscal house in some semblance of order only to let much of that tax hike expire. The government plunged into an 18-month budgetary stalemate with no end in sight. It dawdled so long on creating fracking regulations that it missed the oil boom experienced by other states.

I could go on forever, but I’m sure you have your own examples.

But here’s one of my current pet peeves: marijuana.

The Illinois General Assembly approved a medical marijuana law in 2013. But the program didn’t even start until over two years later, with far fewer patients and doctors than anyone expected. Why? Well, Gov. Pat Quinn’s administration dragged its feet on writing the administrative rules, and the law itself was way too cumbersome.

Prospective patients have to undergo criminal background checks, and they are restricted to using only doctors with whom they have an “established” relationship. The idea was to prevent California-style “pot docs” from springing up, but if you want medical marijuana and your family doctor doesn’t want to deal with the legal or ethical implications, you’re flat out of luck. The qualifying conditions were recently expanded a bit by Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration. Three Cook County circuit court judges separately have ruled that the state illegally denied adding some conditions, but the list is still far too narrow.

There simply aren’t enough patients in the system to support the system.

One reason is that the requirements for medical marijuana growers are mind-bogglingly expensive. A growing facility in Joliet has 144 security cameras that feed to the Illinois State Police, according to a Chicago Tribune report. Every single plant is tagged with an identification number “to track it from seedling to sale.”

Remember, this is marijuana we’re talking about here. For crying out loud, you’d think the law was intended to control fentanyl, which killed Prince.

And to make matters worse, the state just upped the annual patient license fee to $300.

It’s freaking insane. But, hey, it’s Illinois.

The state finally decriminalized small amounts of marijuana this year. You’ll essentially be issued a ticket with a fine of up to $200 if you’re caught with under 10 grams of weed, plus the possibility of another $200 ticket if cops bust you for any smoking paraphernalia.

It’s better than nothing, for sure. But besides letting otherwise law-abiding people off with a slap on the wrist, the state government might have inadvertently strengthened the illegal drug network.

The law focused almost solely on the consumer. But those people have to get their weed from somewhere, and most involved in the supply chain are still subject to stiff felony charges. And, typically, the only people willing to routinely risk a felony bust are criminals.

So, the weed in your pocket may be no big deal to you, but when you bought it you handed over your cash to some potentially bad people, even violent people somewhere down the line. And if decriminalization increases marijuana usage, then that new money in the system will actually bolster the existing criminal distribution network.

Full legalization is the only rational way to go here. And by legalization I don’t mean anything like the insanely overregulated medical marijuana industry.

For once, we need to do something right in this state.

News Moderator: Katelyn Baker
Full Article: Drop The Absurd Medical Regulations, Time To Legalize Marijuana In Illinois
Author: Rich Miller
Contact: 312-649-5200
Photo Credit: Thinkstock
Website: Crain’s Chicago Business