Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Attitudes change, but we’ll still get fight over marijuana decriminalization

I recall a quarrel I once got into back when I lived in Springfield, Ill. The topic was decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana, and the person I spoke to was determined to believe that this was identical to legalization.


A concept that totally offended this particular person.


FOR IT INVOLVES taking the offense of possession and removing the stigma, and accompanying criminal penalties that can occur when police find someone in possession of the proverbial “joint.”


Now I personally don’t smoke. Although I have always thought that too much of the opposition to marijuana was inspired by the concept that it was punishment for people of a certain ideological type – based largely on a notion that is some 50 years old and ridiculously out-of-date.


So to listen to people getting worked up over medical marijuana (the state has begun the process of licensing marijuana dispensaries, and many municipalities have amended their ordinances to regulate where such facilities can be located) always struck me as more political and ideological, rather than any concern over whether marijuana has any legitimate medical purpose.


So while the Chicago Tribune reported that Mayor Rahm Emanuel could benefit politically by coming out on Tuesday in favor of marijuana being decriminalized across all of Illinois, I can’t help but wonder about the drawbacks.


THERE IS A segment of our society that is loud and outspoken who will be more than eager to demonize Emanuel for backing, as they’ll want to perceive it, the legalization of marijuana.


They’ll want to believe that teenage kids will be smoking pot in the high school restrooms, and the teachers won’t be able to do anything about it. Then again, they’ll probably envision the teachers of a certain age (the ones pushing close to retirement with distant memories of being “flower children”) smoking along with them.


Which means we’re going to hear a whole lot of nonsense being spewed in coming weeks and months. People are going to want to rant and rage about this, just as they want to rant and rage about just about anything that Emanuel supports.


This was, after all, the man who was a Clinton White House aide whose running for Congress back in the early 2000s was supposed to make him un-electable. Instead, he won.


THEN, HIS TIES to Barack Obama (serving as his White House chief of staff for a stint) was supposed to make him the ultimate piece of damaged goods.


Yet Emanuel keeps winning. Which is why I’m not counting out his re-election desires come 2015.


Although the fact that he’s going to ask the Illinois Legislature to get in line with his desires for decriminalization means he’s going to be setting himself up for attacks from people who aren’t going to be inclined to view the issue the same way he does.


This issue could well be yet another one that causes people to view Illinois as a severely schizoid state split into factions that just can’t seem to agree on much of anything.


I HAVE NO doubt that outside of the Chicago metro area, the other third of Illinois’ population still thinks that the gay marriage issue is one that the state got “wrong,” and they wish we were allied with Indiana and Wisconsin in fighting legalization to the very end – instead of being amongst the first third of the nation to adopt it.


Are we bound to hear similarly-inspired arguments about marijuana and how the “hippies” have taken over and turned the state into a batch of freaks? Just writing that line, it reeks of ridiculousness.


So Emanuel, in pushing now for decriminalization, probably has some logic and sensibility on his side. It really would benefit our law enforcement agencies if they didn’t have to devote so much time and effort to fighting petty crime.


That ought to be something all of us would desire.



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