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Elected officials call for recreational pot use to be legalized

Cook County Commissioner John Fritchey was one four elected officials who held news conference Monday support decriminalizing marijuanIllinois. | Sun-Times

Cook County Commissioner John Fritchey was one of four elected officials who held a news conference Monday to support decriminalizing marijuana in Illinois. | Sun-Times File Photo

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Updated: May 30, 2014 6:25AM

It’s time for Illinois lawmakers to move beyond state-sanctioned medical marijuana and, as they say, legalize it.

That’s the view of four Chicago-area Democratic officeholders. They held a news conference Monday, calling for the state to decriminalize marijuana possession and — eventually — legalize recreational use of the leafy plant.

“The main difference between the War on Drugs and Prohibition is that, after 40 years, this country still hasn’t acknowledged that the War on Drugs is a failure,” Cook County Commissioner John Fritchey said.

Illinois is already in the process of making medical pot available to those with a so-called legitimate need.

But backers of the budding effort — including Chicago-area state representatives Mike Zalewski, Kelly Cassidy and Christian Mitchell, who also appeared with Fritchey at the news conference — cited a bevy of statistics that suggested pot legalization could help solve more than just medical ailments.

For example, racial minorities are often the target of enforcement efforts, they say, while their white counterparts are not arrested to the same degree for marijuana possession.

“You’ll see people getting swept off the streets on a daily basis on the South Side and the West Side. You don’t see kids getting arrested in Lincoln Park,” said Fritchey, who is a former legislator.

But anyone pining for statewide legalization should probably chill.

The group has yet to drop a bill in Springfield to legalize the drug and, in reality, substantive change is likely a ways off, they acknowledged. At this point they just want fellow Democrats in the General Assembly to green-light a task force to study the issue. The hope, they say, is that Illinois will eventually develop a more laissez-faire approach to pot, which is classified a “dangerous” Schedule I narcotic by the federal government.


Twitter: @brianslodysko

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