It’s good to hear that Police Supt. Garry McCarthy say he may order his officers to start writing tickets to small-time marijuana users. McCarthy is reacting to Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s complaints that petty pot smokers are clogging up her jail.
Many Illinois legislators agree. Just this Tuesday Representative La Shawn K. Ford, released a statement calling for the decriminalization of marijuana, based on Preckwinkle's prescription.
“I want to commend President Preckwinkle, who is one of the most prominent public figures to speak the truth that low-level marijuana possession cases are clogging up our court system, drawing police resources away from serious crime, and are disproportionately affecting African Americans,” Ford said. “In January, I filed legislation to reduce the penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana, and I think it’s time we have a civil and public debate on the issue.”
Hear hear. I think Chicago, and Illinois, need to go even further than reducing marijuana use to a civil offense.
I have a friend who’s a small-time marijuana user. “Delia” only started in the last few months. During that time, I’ve seen a lot of changes in her. She had a mastectomy to remove a cancerous breast, and she lost all her hair due to chemotherapy. Delia doesn’t have a lot of energy, and she smokes pot to relieve the nausea caused by cancer therapy. Since marijuana in any form is illegal in Illinois, Delia gets her stash from a friend who grows it at home. She’s only trying to get some relief during the worst medical crisis of her life, but by doing so, she’s committing a crime that could conceivably land her in the Cook County Jail.
That’s why Illinois needs to go beyond ticketing marijuana use, and make it legal for cancer patients and anyone else who could use the drug to relieve pain. In May, the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act, which would allow physician-prescribed marijuana use, passed the Illinois Senate, 30-28. The House, which earlier that month rejected a medical marijuana measure, never took up the bill.
As president of the Cook County Board, it’s not Preckwinkle’s role to set policy on medical marijuana. But by pointing out the harmlessness of marijuana smokers, she may have advanced the debate on the drug’s legal status. Let’s hope she advanced it far enough to pass a medical marijuana bill in the Illinois House.
Buy this book! Ward Room blogger Edward McClelland's book, Young Mr. Obama: Chicago and the Making of a Black President , is available Amazon. Young Mr. Obama includes reporting on President Obama's earliest days in the Windy City, covering how a presumptuous young man transformed himself into presidential material. Buy it now!