Pubdate: Fri, 08 Nov 2013
Source: Chicago Tribune (IL)
Copyright: 2013 Chicago Tribune Company
Author: Katherine Skiba


WASHINGTON - Sens. Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk staked out opposing 
positions on marijuana Thursday during a coffee with constituents on 
Capitol Hill.

Durbin, a Democrat, said he supported the use of medical marijuana 
for people with conditions such as glaucoma. Kirk, a Republican, said 
he preferred that marijuana "be restricted as much as possible."

Illinois lawmakers this year approved a medical marijuana pilot 
program for patients with serious illnesses.

"The medical marijuana laws in many states are really rapidly 
changing the public view toward marijuana," Durbin said. "So I think 
we are evolving toward a situation where there are less punitive 
responses to the use of marijuana." Still, Durbin said he could not 
support decriminalization of marijuana because he worried about it 
being a "gateway" drug. He said he had several friends whose children 
became addicted to serious drugs.

But he said marijuana possession should not be treated in a criminal 
fashion, expressing concern over prisons being filled with nonviolent 
offenders who had either possessed drugs or sold small quantities of them.

He said young people who made "stupid decisions early in life" and 
tried marijuana shouldn't have that "dog" them for the rest of their lives.

Although Kirk said he favored full restrictions on marijuana, he did 
not comment directly on medical marijuana or Illinois' new law, which 
takes effect next year. He said he was worried about young people's 
academic achievement.

"In my own life, there were kids that in the '70s we would call the 
'burnouts' who were heavily smoking," Kirk said. "Those kids, as they 
got to their 50s, were generally much lower performing in their 
careers and their lives. I don't want kids to have the opportunity to 
see what a life like that is like."

The two spoke in answer to a question from Steve O'Mara, 67, a 
retired credit union official from Arlington Heights. He attended the 
coffee with his wife, Judy, and two grandchildren, both age 10.

On another subject, Durbin sized up Congress' popularity by saying, 
"The approval rating is somewhere below Donald Trump and head lice."

That echoes the findings of a poll this year by Public Policy 
Polling. It found that in one-on-one matchups, Congress was less 
popular than Trump, head lice and root canals, but more popular than 
telemarketers, Lindsay Lohan and the ebola virus.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom