Why there is an urgent need to legalize recreational marijuana

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A marijuana harvester examines buds from a trimming machine near Corvallis, Oregon, on Sept. 30, 2016. | Andrew Selsky/AP

A Sun-Times editorial on Monday said Illinois should sit back, wait and see, and defer the receipt of an estimated $350 million to $700 million in tax revenue that would be derived from the legalization of recreational marijuana.

But the Sun-Times seven years ago, on June 22, 2010, was ahead of the times when it editorialized against destroying tons of pot seized in Chicago. The paper wrote then:

“When will we accept that America’s War on Drugs is over — we lost — and it’s time to get real about our drug laws?

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“The evidence of failure of strict prohibition is everyday in the news…. The police will also tell you that the lifeblood of the gangs is the sale of illegal drugs…. but, of course, Illinois continues to prohibit the use of marijuana for medical purposes — even as 14 states have seen the light…. When will we stop playing pretend?”

The Sun-Times was as right then as it is wrong now. Contrary to what was said in Monday’s editorial, there is “compelling reason to rush to a decision” on the legalization of marijuana.

President Donald Trump wants to appropriate $70 billion to build a wall to “keep the drugs from pouring into this country.” And former Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy reaffirmed that the drug trade is the lifeblood of the gangs. So has his replacement, Eddie Johnson.

Father Michael Pfleger, often quoted in the Sun-Times, has called for an end to the War on Drugs. And Sun-Times columnist Jesse Jackson, in a powerful column in 2011, wrote, “It’s time to end dismally failed ‘War on Drugs.'”

Prohibition feeds the gangs, causes most of Chicago’s violence that killed 780 people in 2016 and led to the opioid overdose death of nearly 1,000 metropolitan Chicago area drug users who are often relegated to unlabeled, Fentanyl-laced street drugs.

The Sun-Times says there is no pressing civil right involved with recreational pot legalization. To the contrary, what people put into their mouths and bodies should be constitutionally protected by the right of privacy. Those are inalienable rights in a free country.

Jim Gierach, Palos Park

Legal pot means big tax revenue

It makes sense for Illinois to monitor states that have legalized pot for recreational use before following the trend. But in 2015 in Colorado, the first full year there of legal recreational pot, thousands of new jobs were created and the state’s economy enjoyed an  estimated $2.4 billion boost. Given the dire condition of the Illinois economy, it seems our state has no choice but to give the potential economic benefits top consideration.

James V. O’Connor, Lake Forest

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