The legalization of recreational marijuana in Illinois will serve as reparation to those affected by Illinois’ unstable economy and the thousands imprisoned under petty drug offenses.
On the campaign trail, Gov. J.B. Pritzker promised to legalize recreational marijuana in Illinois. In an effort to invest in the economy and the people, he is following through with his proposed Steans-Cassidy plan, which would allow Illinois citizens to purchase 30 grams of recreational marijuana and non-residents to purchase 15 grams at a time, according to a Dec. 31 CBS Chicago article.
For Illinois, a state riddled with immense economic hardship, legalizing marijuana is a no-brainer. Under one year of legalization, Illinois’ economy is projected to see a $1 billion boost, according to a Nov. 7 Illinois Update article. The money is expected to be appropriated to reducing pension debts, infrastructure, education, law enforcement, rehabilitation programs and other social services.
“[Legalization] can be another source of revenue, and with Illinois’ money and budget issues, I think it will really benefit the state,” Layla Werner, senior political science major and Model Illinois Government and College Democrats member, said.
While the industry would alleviate stress for Illinois economically, it would also provide justice to those unrightfully incarcerated. Marijuana and the enforcement of laws surrounding the drug has a troubling history. Multiple minority groups bear the impact of discrimination as a result of disproportionate arrests and imprisonments, specifically for African Americans and Latinos.
Nearly half of the 7 million prison population has been convicted of nonviolent drug convictions, according to an Aug. 14, Prison Policy Initiative article. Of those convictions, African Americans and Latinos make up almost 80 percent of drug offenders. Additionally, prosecutors are twice as likely to assert a mandatory minimum sentence for black people than for white people charged with the same drug offense.
“The illegalization of marijuana was a historically racist decision,” Adil Erradi, sophomore political science major and secretary of Model Illinois Government, said.“People are afraid [of legalization] because of some misconceptions that were strewn way back during the Nixon administration.”
Former Nixon domestic policy chief John Ehrlichman told a reporter years after the fact Nixon targeted and demonized marijuana as an effort to punish black people and hippies for being against the Vietnam War, according to an April 11, 2018 NBC News article.
This history continues to reign true in the modern day. Despite the ugly history of illegalization being known, 38 percent of America’s population is against the legalization of marijuana, according to a Oct. 8, 2018 Pew Research study.
Anyone who wants to smoke marijuana can easily find an outlet to do so, and its use is becoming increasingly mainstream. The need for legalization is shown by the racially-charged arrests and the disparities present in Illinois’ economy that could be solved with the new industry.