Limits on use of pot in public are all about getting this new freedom right

Illinois is still working through this social experiment. Why push it?

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Beginning on Jan. 1, 2020, recreational pot will be legal in Illinois, but highly restricted in public spaces.

Beginning on Jan. 1, 2020, recreational pot will be legal for adults in Illinois, but highly restricted in public spaces.

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At the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve, adults in Illinois will be able to smoke a joint just for fun without breaking the law — but they had best do it at home.

No lighting up in a public park. No toking in a bar. No doing weed at Navy Pier. No smoking a bud along the Riverwalk.

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Recreational pot finally will have arrived in Illinois, but with strict limits on public consumption, which to our soberest thinking is just fine. Illinois is still working through this social experiment in legalized hallucinogenics (beyond booze). We see no reason to push it.

The only places you will be able to consume marijuana in public will be cannabis dispensaries, likely in attached smoking areas, and in special smoke shops, not unlike cigar shops. It’s unclear whether you even will be able to smoke pot legally on your own front porch, although the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police has studied the new law and concluded “the answer seems to be yes.”

The public consumption of marijuana will be highly restricted for two reasons.

For one, second-hand smoke is second-hand smoke, whether from a cigarette or a joint. The rule would seem to hold that “Your right to smoke stops at my nose.” Nobody should have to stroll through a cloud of pot smoke on the Riverwalk.

As a practical matter, it shouldn’t much matter. Anybody will still be able to get high in public, discreetly. Smoking marijuana is only one THC delivery system. Eating a pot-infused gummy or brownie works, too. The cops are not likely to sweep down on picnickers in Grant Park and do snack checks.

Restrictions on the public consumption of cannabis also will be strong, as much as this might displease restaurant and bar owners, because not everybody is ready for this. Large numbers of Americans still disapprove of legalized pot. They see it as a measure of our nation’s moral decline, a public health threat and gateway to harder drugs.

That might be why the new law restricts the public consumption of pot even more than cigarettes. You won’t be allowed to smoke pot on the sidewalk outside your office building.

Yes, 66% percent of Americans are OK with legalized recreational marijuana, according to a Gallup poll taken last month — but that means 34% are not.

We don’t share those concerns about America’s moral decline, at least not as measured by the use of pot, and we’ve seen no convincing evidence that pot is a gateway drug. But we do share the concerns of those who worry that it could lead to safety issues, such as more people driving under the influence.

All in all, taking it slow on legalized pot feels right.

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