Gov. Rauner not high on legalizing marijuana: ‘That’s a mistake’

SHARE Gov. Rauner not high on legalizing marijuana: ‘That’s a mistake’

A woman smokes marijuana on Parliament Hill in April in Ottawa, Ontario.
/ AFP PHOTO / Lars HagbergLARS HAGBERG/AFP/Getty Images

Gov. Bruce Rauner is taking a blunt stance, telling a Downstate TV station that it would be a “mistake” to legalize marijuana in Illinois.

The Republican governor has, in the past, said he wants more studies on the “ramifications” in states that have legalized the drug. On Wednesday, he took it further.

“I do not support legalizing marijuana. I think that’s a mistake. You know there’s a massive, human experiment going on in Colorado, and California, other places. We should see how that’s impacted lives and addiction and hurt young people before we make any decision about it here,” Rauner said in an interview on WSIL in Marion. “I do not support legalizing marijuana.”

In April, the governor called recreational marijuana “a very, very difficult subject.” He said he wouldn’t support legalizing marijuana unless there’s a study of the “ramifications” in states that have legalized the drug.

Gov. Bruce Rauner. File Photo. (Ashlee Rezin/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)

Gov. Bruce Rauner. File Photo. (Ashlee Rezin/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)

Gov. Bruce Rauner instituted a medical marijuana pilot program that started doling out weed to patients in 2015. And Rauner last year signed a bill that decriminalized the possession of 10 grams or less of marijuana, making it a ticketable offense subject to fines of $100 to $200.

Legalization essentially means adults won’t be arrested, fined or otherwise penalized for recreational marijuana use or possession. Decriminalization is less sweeping. It generally means violators will not be subjected to criminal prosecutions for smaller amounts, often treating it as a civil offense, punishable only by fines — not jail time.

The issue is increasingly being discussed across the nation. And two Democratic gubernatorial candidates say they would push for legalization of marijuana in the state should they win the election next year.

J.B. Pritzker and state Sen. Daniel Biss, D-Evanston, are on board with legalization, while businessman Chris Kennedy says he supports decriminalizing marijuana but wants to see more studies done to understand the effects of legalizing the drug.

That means if Pritzker or Biss win the gubernatorial election, Illinois could see legalization of recreational marijuana.State Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago, in January introduced legislation that would legalize and tax recreational marijuana — using the money as a new revenue source for the state. It would legalize the possession of up to 28 grams of marijuana and allow facilities to sell marijuana products. Steans said she’s holding onto the bill until 2019 — after next year’s gubernatorial election.

Travel guru Rick Steves entered the fray of marijuana conversation this week at a committee over Steans’ measure. Steves — an advocate of marijuana legalization — said there has been adecrease in black market drug sales and illegal possession that have historically landed a disproportionate number of young black men in jail since his home state of Washington legalized marijuana five years ago.

Steves testified before a joint House-Senate committee hearing at the Bilandic Building in the Loop, where he also warned against focusing too much on filling government coffers by taxing marijuana.

Eight states have legalized marijuana — none in the Midwest.

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