Pubdate: Thu, 03 Apr 2014
Source: Jacksonville Journal-Courier (IL)
Copyright: 2014 Freedom Communications


Is the war on drugs over?

When it comes to marijuana, it soon could be in Illinois.

Two bills making their way through the state House of Representatives
would severely decriminalize use and possession of cannabis.

Although opponents see a danger in giving up on marijuana - calling it
a gateway into harder and more addictive drugs - the reality is that
many of those who grew up during the marijuana "explosion" are now the
ones responsible for creating the laws. These changes are reflective
of a generation that commonly tried marijuana and considered it a less
of a danger than alcohol.

That thinking has been carried down and into a new generation that
sees marijuana use glorified in some of the music and movie mediums.

Even the people behind the "this is your brain on drugs" campaign that
became a part of pop culture has shifted away from an anti-marijuana
campaign, telling Advertising Age magazine legalization is happening
in America.

Sure, we can see this happening on the West Coast, but here? In the

Apparently, yes.

The group Marijuana Policy Project plans to release a new report today
that indicates the majority of people taking part in a statewide poll
support removing criminal penalties for having small amounts of marijuana.

The group is lending its support to House Bill 5708, a proposal by
Chicago Democrat Kelly Cassidy that would remove criminal penalties -
and a criminal record-for those caught with up to 30 grams of
marijuana. That is about 1.05 ounces. Instead of facing jail time, it
would create the category of offenses known as "regulatory offenses"
and would be subject to a ticket and a fine of no more than $100.

Once the fine was paid, the offense would be removed from a person's
record, which means it could not be used against them in the future
when they tried to find work or housing.

A related proposal, House Bill 4299, would do the same as HB5708 and
would also lessen the penalty for manufacturing or delivering up to 10
grams of cannabis - about a third of an ounce - or for having up to
five cannabis plants. Those found with five to 20 plants or 30 to 500
grams of marijuana would be charged with a misdemeanor instead of the
current felony.

"The war on drugs has not worked," said Rep. Christian Mitchell, one
of the sponsors of HB4299. "Our jails are overcrowded. We need to get
smarter on crime, not tougher. Drug addiction is a public health
problem, not a public safety problem."

Both measures have been given unanimous approval from the House
Restorative Justice Committee and now move for a full House vote.

It will be interesting to see what happens in the coming weeks.
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