Should proponents of legalizing cannabis in Illinois be worried about Representative Marty Moylan's (D-Des Plaines) House resolution?
The resolution, HR157, urges legislators "to slow the process of legalizing recreational marijuana in Illinois."
Moylan's resolution now has 60 sponsors and co-sponsors, which is a majority of the House's 118 members. In theory, anyway, it has enough votes to pass.
One of Moylan's newest co-sponsors is Representative Carol Ammons (D-Urbana), who has her own, very liberal legalization bill (HB902). Ammons noted last week that her own legislation hasn't moved (she currently has no co-sponsors) and wants assurances that some concerns are addressed before the main bill starts to advance. Those concerns include a social justice component that would do things such as expunge criminal records.
The Chicago chapter of NORML is arguing for things such as "social consumption without police harassment." But public consumption seems somewhat unlikely at this point because of heavy opposition from the police, among others. Without that, however, tourists will have no way of legally smoking or vaping the product because most hotels will likely (if Colorado is any guide) ban its usage.
Frankly, my own opinion is we should be treating cannabis somewhat the same way that we treat other legal and regulated substances. We allow cigar bars, so we should allow at least some licensed weed-smoking establishments. Everybody's always talking about how we don't have enough jobs in this state, so create some jobs, already.
Left-leaning groups are also legitimately concerned that the industry will be overrun by rich people and huge corporations, crowding out people who live in poor areas and minorities in general. Big companies are dumping huge amounts of money into this industry. I'm all for people making money, but the wealth needs to be spread around on this one, particularly since the folks living in those neighborhoods have borne the brunt of the misguided and over-zealous "war" on drugs.
Moylan's resolution has been assigned to the House Judiciary – Criminal Committee. Just one of Moylan's Democratic co-sponsors (Rockford Representative Maurice West) sits on that committee. So it seems unlikely to pass. However, Moylan could press to have the resolution discharged from committee to the House floor, which will require 60 signatures.
Would it pass if it did get to the floor? Well, I do know that at least some Republicans signed on as co-sponsors to send a message to Governor Pritzker. They didn't like how the governor steamrolled his minimum-wage-increase bill through the General Assembly and they want to make extra-sure he knows he shouldn't try to do it again with cannabis. It's a good point, and one I would echo.
While legalization should not ever be considered any sort of be-all/end-all state fiscal solution, it is an integral part of Governor JB Pritzker's budget proposal, so you can probably expect Democratic legislative leadership to weigh in on this eventually and quietly slow down the slow-downers.
After years of remaining coy, House Speaker Michael Madigan finally came out for legalization shortly after Pritzker was elected last year. Some even believe that Pritzker's election convinced Madigan to get with the program.
Representative Moylan has never made any bones about being a Madigan guy. Well, except for that time during last year's campaign when he denied taking Madigan's money when he had. The opposition ran a TV ad last year that included video of Moylan joyfully leading cheers for Madigan at a Springfield event.
Because of that, folks have been wondering ever since Moylan started this quest whether he was "really" doing Madigan some sort of favor. Is he trying, for instance, to force the governor into bending to Madigan somehow?
It's more likely that Moylan is simply doing what he always likes to do: Get publicity for himself. The man, like many folks in Springfield, is a bit of a media hound. He works very hard at that. And keep in mind that both Chicago newspapers have published editorials this year asking that the process be slowed down, so that's perfect for him during endorsement time if he picks up another challenger next year. We'll just have to wait and see if and/or when Madigan ever yanks his chain.
But the whole idea that this process has moved too fast is just ridiculous on its face. Negotiations between legislators and stakeholders began about two years ago. And the governor's office only began convening meetings a couple of weeks ago.
If people want their issues addressed, they should get themselves to the bargaining table.
Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and CapitolFax.com.