Pubdate: Sun, 10 Oct 2010
Source: Belleville News-Democrat (IL)
Copyright: 2010 Belleville News-Democrat
Author: Jacqueline Lee


Both candidates for St. Clair County sheriff support concealed-carry,
but differ in their approach to the decriminalization of marijuana.

Incumbent Mearl Justus, a Democrat, said he believes it won't be long
before the state legalizes the possession of small amounts of marijuana.

He doesn't know yet whether he would support it, but he does know it's
time-consuming and costly for his agency and the courts to process
marijuana possession arrests.

"If there was a bill, I would want to read that and make a decision,"
Justus said.

His opponent in the Nov. 2 election, Stephen McArthur, of Belleville,
a Republican, has a clearer stance.

McArthur said he does not believe in the noncriminalization of any
drug, and that marijuana possession of any amount is a crime.

"I've seen the effects of marijuana, and it leads to other drugs,
harder drugs, and the only reason why there's a movement towards the
noncriminalization now is politics. And that's the only reason,"
McArthur said.

He said marijuana for medical use is OK, but should be closely

On Wednesday, the day of the annual Sheriff's Department's auction of
surplus and unclaimed property, Justus talked about how marijuana
cases lead to the majority of his agency's property seizures.

Justus said most marijuana possession cases involve small amounts of
marijuana -- under 30 grams, which is a Class A misdemeanor.

Many arrests happen at the courthouse when people forget they have a
marijuana cigarette or two in their purse or pockets.

No matter the amount the person possessed, each arrest takes the same
amount of time to process.

When someone is arrested, the process involves the Sheriff's
Department, state's attorney's office, the drug test lab and the
courts. "When it's all said and done, we calculate the cost to make
each arrest at $358," Justus said.

"The day is probably fast-approaching in Illinois that we are going to
see decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana," Justus said.
"Then law enforcement can spend more time on more serious crimes and
spend more time on more serious cases."

Justus likened the marijuana situation to times of

"If you wanted a drink in that time period, you knew where to get a
drink. ... Why would anybody think that access to small amounts of
marijuana would be any different?"

The same goes for guns and weapons, said Justus, who is an avid
supporter of concealed-carry, which is allowed in Missouri but not

"I've made no bones about that," Justus said. He feels a majority of
his constituents want concealed-carry, though he's unsure how they
feel about legalizing marijuana.

Justus said the state may see a change in the concealed-carry law this
year, depending on who gets elected to succeed Chicago Mayor Richard
M. Daley.

McArthur also said he's for the Second Amendment.

"In every instance in any state that has had concealed carry, the
instances of death, rape, burglary has gone down," McArthur said. "If
a perp doesn't know who has a gun, it's going to make them think twice
before committing a crime."  
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jo-D