By Isabella Szabolcs
Chicago demonstrators gathered to protest what they call a discrepancy in Illinois marijuana laws at Saturday’s Global Cannabis March.
Medical marijuana is now legal for dozens of conditions in Illinois. On May 4, the Illinois Medical Cannabis Board recommended the use of medical marijuana to treat 11 new medical ailments. Cook County state attorney Anita Alvarez announced that she will be changing how low-level drug offenses — including marijuana — will be prosecuted. Rather than issuing arrests and tickets, she will now be dismissing misdemeanor marijuana cases. In addition, House Bill 218, which would decriminalize the possession of less than 15 grams of cannabis, passed the House and is awaiting a reading in the Senate.
At Saturday’s march, Illinois State Representative Robert Martwick (D-Chicago), asked how the state decriminalize the possession of marijuana but still make it an illegal activity to purchase and sell it.
Defense attorney Bruce Eli Mosbacher calls the laws in place ridiculous. The criminal penalty for individuals bringing 5,000 grams or more of marijuana into Illinois is 12 to 60 years in the penitentiary. This is double the sentence for rape or attempted murder with a knife.
Morsbacher calls these sentences “draconian” and says they can have devastating effects on the lives of cannabis offenders.
“These marijuana convictions affect people’s ability to get employment, housing, education,” says Professor Kathleen Kane-Willis, Director of Illinois Consortium on Drug Policy at Roosevelt University.
Both Kane-Willis and Mosbacher say this is also a human rights and civil rights issue. According to Kane-Willis, the cannabis laws in place in Chicago are targeting minority and low-income communities.
“We shouldn’t be sending people to the penitentiary for being involved [with cannabis],” said Mosbacher. “And we certainly shouldn’t be arresting one group of people as opposed to another group of people based on race.”
A change in policy is needed, Kane-Willis said.
For Mosbacher, Kane-Willis and Martwick the solution is to legalize, tax and regulate the sale of marijuana. They believe cannabis reform is necessary and is coming.
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