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We Asked Chicagoans: What Do You Think of Legal Weed?

Our correspondent reached far and wide (okay, through his phone contacts) to find out what locals think about Illinois’s green future.

Marijuana plants in a flowering room at Revolution cannabis cultivation center in Delavan, Illinois   Photo: John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune

When I contemplate what marijuana legalization might look like in Illinois, I’m reminded of a work trip I took to LA around a year ago. A friend offered me a weed-infused drink called a G-Lemonade. Taken by her kindness — and in the process of crushing a Howlin’ Ray’s spicy chicken sandwich — I downed the whole bottle, forgetting that my friend told me I should drink half at most. Six hours later, I ended up at a house party in the Hollywood Hills, giving a motivational speech-slash-fiery WWE-style promo to a confused group that included an SXSW keynote speaker, two CAA agents who could buy all my assets twice over, and a guy I wrongly assumed was a member of ’90s rap group Above the Law.

Last Friday, the Illinois General Assembly voted in favor of a bill legalizing the recreational use of marijuana — the 11th state to take such an action, but the first to do so through its legislature. Once Governor J.B. Pritzker signs it, approved commercial sales of cannabis will begin on January 1, 2020. Getting legal weed (I know it’s “cannabis” but I also refuse to talk about this stuff like it’s an artisan grain bowl) this quickly should surprise no one who followed Pritzker’s campaign. From the start, he vowed to clear the criminal records of people who were arrested for marijuana possession. And obviously, the tax revenue and tourism opportunities from legal weed are one route toward helping the state dig out of its debt.

I wanted to hear from other Chicagoans: What are your thoughts on legal weed in Illinois? As with all important life decisions, I started with my main group chat — it’s 2019, everyone has multiple group chats cracking, duh — and expanded to friends and acquaintances in their late 20s and early 30s from different walks of life all across the city.

“Ben," 27: I don’t think it’s going to save Illinois, but I really like the idea of being able to pick up Portillo’s and an eighth in one trip.

“Domingo,” 26: Everyone claiming this is going to be the answer to Illinois’s problems isn’t dealing with reality. Looking at the budget breakdown, most of the money is going to pensions. I think under 10 percent is going to education, which pisses me off. The revenue won’t be enough to help get us out of this BS. I say all that to say this: I can’t wait to take an edible and go walk through Garfield Park Conservatory.

“Rachel,” 35: Freeing everyone locked up for marijuana crimes is amazing. Selfishly, legalization will make my errands a lot easier: Grocery store, Target, dispensary. I’m legit worried about shopping while stoned though …

“Cam,” 33: I think it will help people with bad diseases who don’t have any other options. My older brother is a military veteran who got his medical card to deal with his PTSD. Anybody who doesn’t want folks like him to have an option to treat their symptoms can f*** all the way off, I really mean that.

“Robin,” 34: I grew up in rural Wisconsin and was very sheltered, so I’m just now learning about pot. I like the idea that I’ll be able to legally take an edible or something and go out dancing all night and then not be hung over the next morning. I also love having sex on pot, so maybe legalizing it will help me meet a husband?

“David,” 31: The prices are gonna be trash and taxed to death. It’s gonna be a bunch of goofy bearded white dudes getting all the money and doing corny stuff like dipping weed into Malort or something else embarrassing.

“Tim,” 32: If I’m gonna get screwed on my taxes, at least I can be stoned while it happens, right?

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