Springfield…Today in Springfield, members of the House of Representatives approved the recreational use of marijuana in a 66-47 vote. Representative Deanne Mazzochi (R-Elmhurst) joined a bipartisan group of lawmakers opposing the bill.
Mazzochi identified multiple problems the bill failed to address. “I am concerned about the harm to children. We have seen other states struggle with big marijuana companies targeting kids with products that look like candy. In an environment where opioid abuse is running rampant, the legislation lacked the research and safeguards necessary to prevent underage abuse. Colorado’s legislation devotes $32/student to prevention and anti-abuse initiatives. Illinois proposes to comparatively spend fifty-two cents.”
Mazzochi also noted the failure to cap potency, and possession loopholes that could be used to avoid the 30-gram limits as problematic. In addition, “we need not just local controls at the city or village level, but the neighborhood level. Our homes are our most significant investment; and if a home grow operation starts to drive down property values, the legislation gives no relief to the non-cannabis homeowners next door. In our district, many homes are separated by ten feet or less. Homeowners have the right to keep their homes and their air quality drug-free.”
During debate, members of the black caucus pleaded for ‘No’ votes, sharing heartbreaking stories about neighborhoods being devastated by divestment and criminality from drug culture. Mazzochi agreed that, “several problems have come to light in states like Colorado that have legalized recreational marijuana. These states have experienced increases in the homeless population; DUI arrests and deaths; and their police and mental health departments have had to work to keep up with the unintended consequences. This bill does not prepare Illinois for those challenges.”
While Mazzochi acknowledged she was open to further debate and discussion, she concluded, “when it comes to the legislation, the brownies weren’t ready for baking.”
The bill will now head to Governor Pritzker’s desk where he is expected to sign it into law.