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Criminalizing marijuana exacts stiff penalties on Illinois

(Glen Stubbe/Star Tribune via AP)

I am a walking reason why we should legalize cannabis in Illinois. I was given a 30-year sentence for cannabis trafficking as a teenager. I make no excuses for my behavior, what I did was illegal, and that deserves a consequence. However, the effects of cannabis being illegal are more devastating to our society than the effects of cannabis itself.

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The vast majority of cannabis users are not criminals in any sense other than their possession of cannabis. But the illegality of it has created an “us against them” mentality in the minds of many, causing them to have an ill view of law enforcement they otherwise would not have. Plus, minorities are disproportionately affected by the laws against cannabis in our state (and the ironic part is I strongly believe that is the overwhelming reason why cannabis is still illegal.)

The way our laws are set up on cannabis should make us be ashamed of ourselves, and the problem is that many do not even realize the absurd view we take on cannabis in Illinois. While I was in prison, I was not allowed to get the same good time credits we allow some murderers and sex offenders to obtain. This is because some cannabis offenses are Class X felonies, which means they are a “more heinous” offense than a second-degree murder. Does that make sense to anybody?

Alcohol was illegal, and it did nothing but make criminals out of law-abiding citizens. Now cannabis is illegal, and it has done nothing but the same. I have never committed a crime in my life outside of cannabis, but yet I have served more prison time than some murderers and was deemed “more heinous” than them. Stop the insanity, and legalize cannabis for recreational use.

Jason Spyres, Peoria

Capone’s Chicago

I was on vacation recently, hundreds of miles from home. When it was discovered that I was a Chicagoland native, I was promptly asked if things were really as violent as advertised. It was painfully obvious that outsiders visualize bodies piling up routinely on our downtown streets.

Only then did I fully comprehend just how little our reputation has advanced since Al Capone and his heyday of terror. Turf wars are still being fought—but now it’s over drugs instead of illegal hooch and instead of pinstriped hooligans, it’s neighborhood warlords. After 90 years I hardly call that progress.

What’s more, admitting that you are a Chicagoan now comes with a pause.

Bob Ory, Elgin

A farewell wish to Ringling Bros.

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus ended its 146-year run on May 21. Those people who experienced any aspect of those extravaganzas have been bequeathed some treasured legacies. For those who missed out, there will be myriad tales to hear from others. And, of course, there are still countless others who were opposed to any form of circus. They will applaud its end.

Regardless, the Ringling Bros. finale reminds us of the following life realities: to all things there is a season, all business relationships come to an end and the only thing permanent is change.

Let us wish all the best to everyone who has been involved—and that includes all the animals.

Thanks for the memories.

Leon J. Hoffman, Lincoln Park

Ridiculous Illinois politicians

Great editorial calling out Illinois politicians. It does seem, though, that the more the media points at how ridiculous our politicians are behaving, the more ridiculous they become. They love the attention. They’ve become caricatures of themselves. Who was it that endorsed these fools? Their pushing and shoving, their bullying, that “me first” and “my way or the highway” attitude is all an adolescent, schoolyard quest for domination. Who raised these spoiled brats that are incapable of working together? More importantly, who voted for them?

Tony Galati, Lemont

A win for consumers, for now

In a win for consumers, President Trump’s Labor Secretary, Alexander Acosta, has announced that he will follow the law and allow key provisions of the “fiduciary rule” to take effect on June 9. The fiduciary rule, which was developed and finalized during the Obama administration, would require retirement investment advisers to offer advice that is in their clients’ best interests. Without the rule, such advisers are permitted to give advice that serves their own interests, not the consumers’. In this classic case of conflict of interest, consumers lose. President Obama’s White House Council of Economic Advisers revealed that advice by advisors who have conflicts of interest costs working and middle class families $17 billion per year.

Considering the complexity of investing for retirement and the fact that many so-called “advisers” are largely seeking to line their own pockets, many retirees face the prospect of outliving their retirement savings. Inadequate retirement savings or depletion of savings through excessive fees and commissions can mean sacrificing or skimping on necessities such as food and health care. Retirees may be pushed into poverty, which not only harms the retiree, but also creates fiscal pressure on publicly financed retirement programs and on other public assistance programs.

In the era of “fake news” and “alternative facts,” common sense does not always prevail. Secretary Acosta has signaled that the rule may eventually be scrapped, possibly leaving us with a consumer protection that was squashed before it had a chance to work. The prudence of the fiduciary rule has already been extensively studied and studiously considered. It’s time to let the rule take effect and for consumers to be able — at long last — to confidently rely on the advice that is given to them.

Dory Rand, president,

Woodstock Institute