This state is on the brink of a major change in social policy.
Jan. 1, 2020 — Wednesday — will not only mark a new year, but a new day in Illinois.
That’s the time when the sale of marijuana and/or “cannabis-infused products” for recreational use will become legal.
Who’d have thunk it?
Actually, a lot of people have been pushing for legalization for a long time.
Ten states and the District of Columbia already have approved it, and it was only a matter of time before this leftward-drifting state joined the crowd. More are surely on the way.
That’s not just because the issue represents a social barometer that indicates who’s in charge. It’s also, literally, the stuff dreams are made of.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker, state legislators and local municipal officials dream of boatloads of new revenue generated by legal sales of the expensive and highly-taxed merchandise.
Marijuana enthusiasts dream of a legal high that will make all their concerns about real-world problems fade into oblivion, their biggest problem being how to finance serial cases of the munchies.
Those who took the position that the decriminalization of marijuana was sufficient and the legalization was unnecessary have dreams, too.
They dream that the negative consequences associated with legalization in other states, like Washington and Colorado, won’t come to pass here.
They dream of a state in which marijuana-zonked drivers won’t cause more traffic accidents and injuries, where underage kids won’t have greater access to and interest in marijuana than they already do, where adults interested in legal consumption will do so in a safe, discreet manner.
Unfortunately and unrealistically, legalization has been sold to the people of Illinois as an unadulterated good — an engine of economic growth that will spin off tax dollars and social justice.
But Illinois residents should ask themselves whose hopes and fears are more realistic — the pro-legalization crowd or those who supported decriminalization but opposed legalization.
Broken down to the bottom line, legalization represents another means of achieving intoxication. Indeed, that is the whole goal of consumption, and it’s hard to see more incoherence as a positive. There’s too much of that already, and it exacts a grievous toll on society.
But the die has been cast. Those who know about these matters predict that the sales centers for legal marijuana won’t have a big enough supply on hand to meet the initial demand.
Eventually, of course, the excitement will fade. Business inventories will be adjusted. The newness of legalization will drift ... into what? Who can really say?
One thing for sure about legalization is that this experiment will produce answers to questions that previously generated little but speculation, salesmanship and sometimes antagonism.
The people of Illinois have been warned by law enforcement and public health authorities that there will be considerable collateral damage. They also have been encouraged by legalization proponents to write off those claims as the hysterical ravings of the “reefer madness” crowd.
There’s a wide gap between those two positions, and the dispute has been settled the only way it could be — by a vote by the people’s representatives in Springfield, virtually all of whom claimed they will never touch the stuff. All that’s left to do now is sit back and hope that it turns out to be a euphoric non-event.