Saturday, August 15, 2015

A marijuana expert? Or just being politically contrarian, Rauner is!

What should we make of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s amendatory veto Friday of a bill meant to reduce the penalties people would face for possession of small amounts of marijuana?
Lege will quarrel this fall over 5 grams

Is our governor some sort of expert in the scientific propensities of pot? Does he comprehend the effects of “Mary Jane” in ways that we mere mortals do not? Is he protecting us from our worst instincts?

OR IS RAUNER merely being contrarian, saying “no” because he can?

I’m inclined to think the latter, mostly because he seems to want to keep elements of the mentality that marijuana is some serious criminal offense – rather than just an addictive substance that weak people can let get the best of themselves.

Just like alcohol, if you want to know the truth. But while the majority of society realizes that “prohibition” was an absurd mistake our society engaged in nearly a century ago, there are those of us who seem determined to want to think of pot as a crime.

Something that ought to be punished by locking people up for as long as possible! Personally, I think it is because there are those in our society who want to think of marijuana as a “hippie” drug – and they want to punish the image to keep the "hard hats" and "flat-tops" happy.

THAT MENTALITY REALLY does nothing but clutter our prisons, jails and court systems with people who ought not to have to face such charges.

Which is what inspired the Illinois General Assembly to approve a bill that lessened penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana. Possession of that single joint or two wouldn’t be a criminal offense in and of itself.

But Rauner issued the amendatory veto, suggesting changes that are meant to make the measure more restrictive.

The Legislature’s version called for anyone caught with under 15 grams of marijuana to merely pay a fine without having to go to court. Fines would top out at $125.

RAUNER, HOWEVER, CLAIMS he thinks the standard should be 10 grams, and that the fines ought to go as high as $200.

Does anyone seriously believe there’s a significant difference? That the additional 5 grams (which could be enough “grass” for about six or seven hand-made pot-stuffed cigarettes) is somehow a difference that makes it worth the time and effort for police and prosecutors to lock someone up and clutter up the court system with more and more of these cheap cases – all to create an image of “law and order” that really doesn’t do a thing to make our society any more safe?

Rauner may have made his millions that could allow him to buy a more sympathetic General Assembly in coming years. But that doesn’t make him an expert in the law, or in narcotics.

It will be interesting to see how this situation resolves itself. Will Rauner’s changes be permitted to stand? Or will the General Assembly feel compelled to take their original version they approved earlier his year and ram them down the governor’s throat?

I WOULDN’T BE surprised to see if it turns out to be the latter. This is a veto-proof majority for Democrats in both chambers of the Illinois Legislature. Over-riding the governor on this seems like a rather mild gesture of rebellion by them against all the hostile rhetoric related to the failure of the sides to agree on a state budget.

And in the end, it probably wouldn’t make much of a difference in the way police handle the people they encounter who are a little too toasted to comprehend what is happening around them.

Although if we’re going to make a point of toughening up laws that are meant to acknowledge that the current drug laws are a bit too tough, then perhaps another Rauner action on Friday is timely – the governor signed into law a measure that declares pumpkin pie to be the Official State Pie of Illinois.

Something to satisfy that craving for junk food one might sense if they smoke that extra 5 grams of pot that Rauner thinks elevates the offense to a higher standard of crime!


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