The state of Illinois is currently debating a new bill that promises to legalize recreational marijuana use. While there are some conflicting arguments about the bill, the sticking point might be a surprise to all those waiting to see how Illinois votes. And just as lawmakers appear poised to greenlight marijuana, they are also creating more punitive measures for individuals who are caught with drugs. The state, which has a significant opioid crisis on its hands, appears to be muddling through contradictory measures in its attempt to deal with the state’s long-time drug problem.
Illinois Contemplates Legalizing Marijuana
Newly elected Governor Pritzker promised voters he’d legalize marijuana, and now the state is poised to do it. According to WTTW, State Rep. Kelly Cassidy and State Sen. Heather Steans “are planning to present the 300-page bill in the coming days” before the General Assembly’s session ends at the end of May. The bill takes a “tax-and-regulate” approach to legalization rather than a “ballot referendum,” which has been the course for other states. While the Illinois method, should it pass, is taking longer to win support, it has more to offer. According to Forbes, Illinois Economic Policy Institute and the University of Illinois are reporting that legalizing pot will create “24,000 jobs and would generate more than $500 million in state tax revenue, infusing nearly $1 billion into the state economy overall by 2020.” For a state that has been in the red, this windfall could do wonders for its economy.
So, What’s the Down Side?
The downside is, of course, the same argument that has long been used in reference to marijuana: it’s a gateway drug that could lead to addiction and increased drug use. The NAACP’s Illinois chapter has taken a stance against legalization of marijuana. The organization believes that its use has led to suffering in many of the state’s communities. Additionally, some prominent mental healthcare experts in Illinois have also voiced opposition to the bill. They believe that the legalization of marijuana will make it more accessible for young people to obtain— and that could lead to a worsening of the drug crisis.
Home Grown Is Out
While many opponents of the state’s bill worry about marijuana’s potential to worsen the drug epidemic, others are angry that amendments to the bill “eliminate provisions that would allow individuals to grow up to five cannabis plants at home.” Critics believe this type of ban amounts to corporate greed. Similar amendments tanked New York’s similar bill to legalize marijuana. They argue that home brewers are not outlawed from brewing their own beer. And even “home cultivation of personal-use tobacco is not illegal,” according to The Chicago Tribune. Consequently, the legalization of pot isn’t quite in the bag yet.
More Drug Debates for the State
Marijuana isn’t the only drug news that is making headlines. Illinois has also come under fire for its contradictory approach to drug treatment and drug enforcement. According to a recent report in the Illinois Times, “Illinois legislators have enacted laws that expand resources needed to support people battling substance abuse while, at times during the same legislative session, enacting more punitive laws for those who are caught with drugs.”
This type of contradiction demonstrates how the state is still struggling to sort out its approach to the drug crisis, especially as it relates to opioids, which is a significant drug problem in Illinois. Does Illinois want to treat people addicted drugs like fentanyl, or bust them when they’re caught with the drug? The state is still trying to answer this question within its legislative sessions.
A “Little” Federal Support
Like many states across the country dealing with the opioid epidemic, Illinois has received “a total of $82 million to combat opioid addiction since September 2016,” according to the Illinois Department of Human Services. While annual overdose deaths are still above 2,400, they did decrease by 130 between 2018 and 2017. Other efforts to combat the crisis are also underway. The National Prescription Drug Take Back Day sponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Drug Enforcement Administration “is an attempt to reduce drug abuse and addiction, overdose deaths and accidental poisonings by keeping medicines, including opioid painkillers, away from people who shouldn’t have them.” Last year, “36,896 pounds of drugs collected at 188 sites in Illinois” were safely confiscated and disposed of.
Many legal experts believe that Illinois will ultimately pass legislation that legalizes marijuana. Home growers may be prevented from growing their own and competing with the corporate-grown cannabis, but that debate could still go either way. And while the legalization will probably create lots of jobs and certainly help fill the state’s coffers, it’s unclear how legalized pot will impact communities in the state, communities that are already battling drug addiction.
It’s true that cannabis is not as addictive as a drug like heroin or fentanyl. However, taking it as a matter of daily routine in the same way that some people imbibe alcohol can pave a road to dependency and addiction. If you or a loved one is struggling with a dependency, physically or psychologically, to marijuana or another type of substance, FHE Health can help. An addiction is a chronic condition, so it’s not likely to improve without treatment. In fact, as overdose statistics demonstrate, the opposite is generally true; the condition worsens without professional help.