In June of 2019, Illinois became the 11th state to legalize recreational marijuana. The Associated Press' John O'Conner reports:
Residents may purchase and possess up to 1 ounce (30 grams) of marijuana at a time. Non-residents may have 15 grams. The law provides for cannabis purchases by adults 21 and older at approved dispensaries, which, after they’re licensed and established, may start selling Jan. 1, 2020.
According to the AP, Illinois could have up to 110 recreational marijuana outlets by the Jan. 1 start date. As Rep. Kelly Cassidy puts it:
“Today, we’re hitting the ‘reset’ button on the war on drugs,” Cassidy said.
Many people believe weed should be legalized in the name of social justice and equality. As Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan points out in a CNN opinion piece:
Moreover, the ACLU found that even though African-Americans use marijuana at similar rates to white Americans, they are almost four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession....nationally, about one in four prisoners are behind bars for low-level drug offenses. When they finally leave prison–after years removed from employment, education and family–their chances of having a productive life are slim.
I firmly believe no person should be sentenced to a lifetime of hardship because of a marijuana arrest. It is morally wrong and economically nonsensical. That is why I am calling for an end to marijuana being used as an excuse to lock up our fellow Americans.
The Washington Post reported on Sen. Cory Booker's 2017 legislation that would both legalize marijuana and "expunge federal marijuana convictions." The Marijuana Justice Act would also punish states with "racially-disparate arrest or incarceration rates for marijuana-related crimes." Sen. Kamala Harris joined Booker in his efforts to legalize weed in 2018.
The villainization of marijuana is keeping disproportionate groups of Americans behind bars, it is furthering racism and stereotypes, and it's past time for the country right these realities.
Some believe the debate surrounding the legalization of weed has been largely over-simplified. The Washington Post looked to neuroscientist Judith Grisel for insight on unforeseen consequences of legalization. As Grisel points out, marijuana is increasingly thought of as "either benign or beneficial," but "wishful thinking and widespread enthusiasm are no substitutes for careful consideration."
The debate around legalization—which often focuses on the history of racist drug laws and their selective enforcement—is astoundingly naive about how the widespread use of pot will affect communities and individuals, particularly teenagers.
It’s not surprising, then, that heavy-smoking teens show evidence of reduced activity in brain circuits critical for flagging newsworthy experiences, are 60 percent less likely to graduate from high school, and are at substantially increased risk for heroin addiction and alcoholism...they’re seven times more likely to attempt suicide.
Despite public perception, marijuana remains a potent, mind-altering drug. Despite the potential societal benefits to legalization, the drug should not be unleashed to the pubic without careful consideration, research and an understanding for its long-term effects. Anything less would be a disservice to U.S. citizens.
Some people simply don't trust marijuana, and their opinions are not likely to change. Marijuana's reputation—deserved or not—precedes it, and many people feel legalizing weed will make it a pervasive drug. For those who do not trust drugs of any kind, including alcohol, legalizing marijuana is not a win.