Since Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel made the case Tuesday for decriminalizing pot possession statewide, Illinois' Republican governor candidate Bruce Rauner is seeming to mellow from a harder stance that has included opposing the state's newly minted medical marijuana law.
Speaking at a presser alongside New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Rauner's No. 1 celebrity supporter and a vocal opponent of legalizing recreational marijuana, the North Shore venture capitalist suggested he'd be willing to hash out Emanuel's pitch to slash the penalty to a misdemeanor for weed-possessors caught with 1 gram or less of a controlled substance.
"I'm open to the discussion," he told reporters, adding: "I think we can and should talk about ways we can creatively deal with non-violent offenders. ... We have a massive failure by (Gov.) Pat Quinn to deal with violent criminals."
His Tuesday remarks came on the heels of a new attack ad targeting Democratic incumbent Quinn's allegedly secrecy-shrouded early release of 230 violent criminals that captured attention last election cycle. (View the video below.) The release of the crime-centric spot appears to be timed to distract from the made-for-television federal trial unfolding in Florida that involves Rauner's former private equity firm, nursing home deaths and an alleged Mafia-esque "bust out" scheme.
Back to pot: Rauner, who's positioned himself as a corruption-cleaning reformer amid headlines over his checkered business past and mystery-cloaked identity, voiced opposition last week to a bill Quinn signed into law making medical marijuana legal. Such legislation is considered a gateway to legalizing recreational use, as seen in Colorado.
Rauner's biggest issue? Transparency, and the closed-door screening of cultivation applicants seeking licenses to sell weed.
"Something stinks, and it's not the marijuana. This process is so overtly corrupt, so indefensible, it would make Rod Blagojevich blush," Rauner sniped. "We could create a process that's open, transparent, and we could have an auction process where companies could bid for a defined period of time."