Saturday, November 29, 2014

Will pot replace numbers racket as source to fund public schools?

It was the early 1970s when our state created an official lottery game, and one of the selling points to encourage political people to vote for legalization of what was essentially the numbers racket of old was the notion that money raised by the lottery would be used to help fund public education programs across the state.

What wound up happening was that state officials wound up thinking they could take other sources of funding away from public school programs, on account of “all that lottery money” that allegedly was going to fund our kids’ education.

THESE DAYS, PEOPLE complain more than ever about the lack of support the state provides for education, which in reality has to rely on local property tax revenues to fund school operations.

Meaning people in wealthier communities with better schools complain they’re overtaxed. People in lower-income communities say they don’t get enough for their children to have the same opportunities as those in the previously-mentioned communities.

And many rural school districts complain that their isolation harms them all the way around.

All of this rhetoric is what came to my mind when I read a Chicago Sun-Times report quoting a Chicago attorney who is part of a group that wants to operate a cultivation center in a downstate Illinois community where marijuana would be grown.

THE POT GROWN on the property in Edgewood would be the product sold at distribution centers licensed by the state where people with a legitimate medical need would be able to purchase their marijuana.

Of course, there are those people who want to view the whole issue of “medical marijuana” skeptically – as some sort of ruse by which people will legalize a product that too many ideologues have desired to criminalize for decades.

Which is what leads attorney Jon Loevy to his current tactic; he told the Sun-Times that his business group – if they are given a license to operate a farm – would give at least half of its earnings to programs that benefit education.

So grandpa needing his marijuana-laced brownies to deal with his glaucoma? People can supposedly “get over” their mistrust by saying, “We’re looking out for the children.”

THE TRICK TO considering the procedure now is that the business entities that want to get into the medicinal marijuana business are far from actually opening their doors.

The state law that legitimized the concept says there will be 22 cultivation centers and 60 dispensary facilities across the entire state. More than 200 groups, including the one that Loevy is connected to, have applied for those licenses.

We’re now going through a process by which local governments are reviewing any proposals intended for their communities. A whole lot of City Councils and village boards are studying the talk, and deciding whether they want any such facility.

Then, the state has final say. And as assorted news reports have indicated, the state isn’t exactly coming forth with what their guidelines will be for deciding who actually gets to make money from production and distribution of marijuana without risking arrest by the local police.

SO I’M SURE a promise like the one made by Loevy could make his group stand out. For all I know, there could be other groups that follow the same lead.

It’s almost as though I can hear many dozens of Helen Lovejoys cropping up across Illinois, telling us in her Simpsons-like cry, “Won’t somebody please think of the children?!?”

Although I don’t have a clue as to how much money would wind up going for schools. Or what, exactly, they would be able to use it for. I’d only hope that before such talk of using medical pot funds for school kids goes too far, we give serious thought.

Otherwise, you just know a couple of decades from now, we’re going to hear protesters complaining, “What about all that drug money that’s supposed to help our schools?”


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