I recently returned to Illinois after living in Colorado for 2 years, and I had made the decision to leave our lifelong home in a suburb of Chicago in pursuit of better educational opportunities, career opportunities, and thriving, safe communities for my sons. Recently we returned to Illinois as a result of a sudden, and unforeseen event, and although I'm elated to be home with family and friends, my heart is breaking as I realize the changes this state has undergone while I was away.
The defunding and under funding of our public and charter schools, the higher than national average rate of unemployment, the ever increasing taxation of low income and middle class families and small businesses, the stagnating rate of new business growth, the increasing amounts of violence, organized crime, and incarceration, the lack of employment/career opportunities and livable wages, and the decline of our rural areas are disillusioning to me. This is not the Illinois that people deserve.
This is my home and I want the only the best for my children, my neighbors, my community, and my fellow Illinoisans. I've seen first hand living in Colorado the amazing impact that tax revenue from the legalized recreational cannabis industry can have in all of these areas. With over 15,000 new jobs created in one year in Colorado alone, new agricultural opportunities, revenue to support public services and programs, to support charter and pilot program schools and colleges, as well as to support infrastructure and human services programs, the alleviation of time consuming petty crime chasing for law enforcement, the decrease in underage consumption, the alleviation on the incarceration system, and the alleviation on taxpayers, families, and homeowners has done amazing things for their state. I had the honor of being able to stand up, and speak up, for the patient community and the importance of safe, public consumption and to support the addition of PTSD to the medical cannabis program in Colorado.
At a time when our state is struggling just to budget for essential staff and stay out of filing bankruptcy, when we have to choose between caring for the elderly and ill or funding the education of our children, it is imperative that recreational cannabis consumption be legalized in Illinois, for the sake of our people, the betterment of our communities, and the enhancement of our state. An industry worth over $20 billion by 2020 is not something we can simply close our doors and turn a blind eye to. Further the growing disparity between economic and minority groups who are arrested for simple possession is outrageous. The war on cannabis has led to a federal spending of over $51 billion dollars, only to have minimal to no impact on under age consumption while unfairly and disproportionately incarcerating the poor and people of color. The prohibition of cannabis is an out right excuse to imprison minorities, discourages small business ownership, and hinders economic growth of low income communities.
Recent polls show over 60% already support cannabis legalization here, and that poll was released shortly after the two bills werer introduced to legalize. But unlike Colorado, Illinois is not an initiative and referendum (I&R) state, meaning that no matter how much we petition or protest or lobby, an amendment to the state constitution (which would be required to legalize adult use cannabis) will not be put on the ballot for Illinoisans to vote on. Those votes will be cast by our House and Senate representatives only, and that limits how we, as active citizens, can impact our state laws. As voters, we are essentially dependant on our representatives to actually enact our will for almost anything. This the true difference between IL and other states, our activism is driven by passion and perseverance, it feeds and thrives on our midwestern determination, because without the ability to bring a vote to the ballot on election day, all we have is the power of our collective voice and our refusal to be ignored.
Are you a part of the movement or in support of a local legalization organization in Illinois or in your state?