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Letters to the Editor

A for-profit recreational marijuana industry would imperil Illinois youth

Marijuana grown at the Cresco Labs in Joliet. | Annie Costabile/Sun-Times

Following the recent actions of the state Senate Executive Committee voting on Senate Bill 7, a “shell bill,” I am concerned about the impact of commercializing recreational marijuana in Illinois.

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This measure passed committee by a 12-4 vote, even though there are no details yet filed for the bill. As the Sun-Times pointed out on Apr. 5, there has been a complete lack of transparency in the process, in which “the actual details of the bill are being negotiated privately by lawmakers, the governor’s office and cannabis industry advocates … ”

From analyzing the impact on other states, the creation of a for-profit industry will adversely affect both the short-term and long-term health of our youth.

It is highly troubling for pediatricians like myself, who have dedicated our careers to promoting the health of youth, that non-industry affiliated medical professionals, drug policy researchers, and addiction specialists have not been included in this backroom process. Pursuing this shell bill without balanced representation at the table is a disservice to our state.

The impact of marijuana use on youth is far-reaching.

Marijuana use in teens has been proved to have harmful and long-lasting effects. Recent research has shown that as little as a single time using marijuana can change a developing teen brain. Research supports additional significant health consequences for youth who use marijuana.

Some of these consequences include: higher rates of anxiety, depression and psychosis; high rates of addiction (one in six teen users will become addicted); impaired driving with higher rates of fatal crashes; higher rates of other drug use; higher rates of risky sexual behaviors and associated sexually transmitted infections. Marijuana adversely affects a teen’s future by increasing school difficulties that stem from problems with memory and concentration as well as higher dropout rates.

A vote for marijuana commercialization in this state is a vote against our youth and our state’s future.

Experience and knowledge gained from states that have commercialized marijuana clearly illustrate the far-reaching public health implications from a policy change of this magnitude.

State Rep. Marty Moylan, D-Des Plaines, has called to slow down the process of commercializing marijuana in Illinois, as he understands the need to solve marijuana-related problems without creating an opportunity for addiction profiting, increased youth usage rates, and increased dangers on our roads.

HR 157 would allow for our state to take a balanced, closer look at more sensible policy options. It is this approach that would best protect the health of our state’s future and point us in the direction of options we should be considering.

Susan Sirota, MD, FAAP, Riverwoods

About-face

Thank you very much for your recent editorial about Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot’s abrupt about-face regarding the Lincoln Yards development and TIF. You truly captured my feelings and the feelings of many of my friends and family who voted for her.

I am writing to express my extreme dismay and disappointment at Lightfoot’s support for the Lincoln Yards development and corresponding TIF.

I live in a neighboring ward, closer to this site than most of constituents of the 2nd Ward, and I am adamantly opposed to the development on several grounds: largely due to the fact that the high-rise office/condo portion of the development is out of character for the area, as well as the large amount of TIF financing required to make it viable for office workers in the first place.

It doesn’t make sense to me, and I worried about the long-term (detrimental) impact on the area’s streetscape; not to mention that many would-be workers from the South and West sides would be effectively excluded from reasonably commuting there. I don’t believe the same to be true for The 78, however, which is better located to the Loop’s existing transport hub.

I voted for Lightfoot twice, once in the primary, and of course in the run-off election, largely for reasons you note in your article: because I believed she would put an end to these business-as-usual re-zonings and TIF giveaways. I believe Mayor Rahm Emanuel gave her an opening to ask the City Council to delay this vote until after her inauguration.

During the campaign, Lightfoot made repeated comments about delaying the Lincoln Yards TIF and approval process until after the inauguration of her and the new alderman. Her election website still contains this very language. Shame that it did not come to fruition.

I am extremely disappointed at Lightfoot’s inability to press the issue with the mayor and in her oddly timed statement the night before the vote, giving the project her blessing for what appears to be small concessions to contractors and with no binding oversight or changes to building heights, density, or design.

This is not the type of leadership myself, my friends, or my family were led to believe we were voting for. This isn’t just a campaign issue for many of us — it’s a quality of life issue, for our community and for the city as a whole.

The Lincoln Yards development will adversely impact the quality of life for decades to come, while entrenching existing geographic economic disparities. As the construction cranes loom, I am certain this will be a campaign issue in 2023 and beyond.

I hope you can express these sentiments to her colleagues.

Ed Dombrowski, Chicago

Disingenuous

As a former police officer and a criminal trial lawyer for over 40 years, I think it is clear the excuses from Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx used as a reason to dismiss the charges against Jussie Smollett are disingenuous at best.

First of all, any deal should have required some leverage, either through a period of probation or deferred prosecution. That probation or deferment should also include a provision for restitution for the expense incurred and ugly inflammatory images his fraudulent hoax caused nationwide. He should also have been required to complete of some kind of behavioral training and education before the charges were dismissed or the deferred prosecution terminated.

Requiring that leverage ensures that the restitution money is paid. This is standard criminal prosecution procedure for a crime such as his with the widespread and serious impacts this case had all across the country.

James Marino, Santa Monica, California