Commentary & Community

Illinois Set to Legalizing Marijuana

Legislators in Illinois are rushing to finish their work before adjournment on Friday. One piece of business that appears headed to the governor’s desk is a bill to legalize the recreational use of marijuana.


Under this bill, Illinois residents could possess 30 grams of marijuana. Sales of marijuana would become legal in 2020, but people could only grow their own marijuana for medicinal purposes. The state would impose either a 10% of a 25% tax, depending on potency. The state would tax edible products at a 20% rate. Anyone who has a conviction for a marijuana offense involving 30 grams or fewer would receive a gubernatorial pardon, while those with offenses relating to larger amounts of marijuana could petition for an expungement.


Ten other states permit people to use marijuana recreationally. The federal government still lists marijuana as a prohibited drug, but most marijuana arrests for possession are at the state level. There are efforts in Congress to adjust federal law to recognize marijuana businesses in states where they are permitted. President Trump has indicated support for such legislation.


Do you think that states should legalize marijuana for recreational use? Should people be allowed to grow marijuana at home? What should the federal government do regarding marijuana?

Illinois May Raise Tobacco Purchase Age to 21

The minimum age for buying tobacco products in Illinois may soon go up to 21. After failing with a similar proposal last year, legislators are back with a bill that would increase the tobacco purchase age in that state.


Currently someone who wants to buy tobacco in Illinois must be 18. That is the same minimum purchase age for tobacco that exists in most states. However, public health advocates and some lawmakers think that 18-, 19-, and 20-year-olds should be prohibited from purchasing or possessing tobacco.


These advocates argue that allowing young adults to purchase tobacco sets them up for an addiction that lasts a lifetime. They say that raising the tobacco purchase age to 21 will help protect these young adults’ health and contribute to a reduction in the smoking rate. Opponents counter that adults should be free to buy tobacco products if they want. They say that politicians should not be making this choice for adults who know the risks that come from using tobacco.


A handful of other states already restrict tobacco purchases to individuals 21-years-old or older. These include California, Oregon, Hawaii, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Maine. A few states, such as Alabama and Utah, set the minimum age for tobacco purchases at 19.


Do you think that the legal age for tobacco purchases should be raised to 21?

Is Rent Control Coming to Illinois?


Rent hikes are a source of loud complaints across Chicago. Some activists think that government should put controls on how high rental increases can go, but state law forbids this. The Democratic candidate for governor wants to lift this prohibition.


Currently, state law does not allow local governments to place caps on rent increases. This prevents Chicago or other cities from enacting rent control. In three city wards, however, activists have placed a measure on the November ballot that would gauge voters’ opinion on rent control. These measures are non-binding, but would indicate whether or not these residents support rent control.


J.B. Pritzker, the Democrat running for governor, would like to repeal the state law banning rent control. Republican Governor Bruce Rauner does not support repeal. His opposition to allowing rent control has likely played a role in preventing serious consideration of a repeal bill in the legislature. A Chicago legislator has proposed the establishment of county boards, controlled by tenants, which would keep rent increases at 4-6% a year for elderly and low-income renters or renters with disabilities.


Supporters of rent control say that it is a way to prevent landlords from pricing out low-income residents in the face of gentrification. They say rent control is a good way to stabilize neighborhoods and promote affordable housing. Rent control opponents say that the use of rent control in cities like New York has demonstrated that it leads to reduced investment in housing and higher rental rates for those not covered by rent control.


Do you think that the government should tell landlords how much they can raise rent?


Attempting to Close Gender Pay Gap, Illinois May Ban Salary Info Requests


Illinois legislators don’t like when potential employers ask job candidates about their salary history. They say this practice hurts women applicants. In early July, they passed legislation that would prohibit employers from asking job seekers about salary during interviews. Now it is up to Gov. Bruce Rauner to decide if he will go along with this effort to amend the state’s Equal Pay Act.


The salary legislation prohibits employers from doing three things: 1) screening potential employees on their salary history, 2) requiring that potential employees’ prior salary satisfy a maximum or minimum range, and 3) asking about salary history as part of the job search process.


Supporters of such legislation contend that asking about salary history is one way that employers can get away with offering women job applicants lower starting wages. They say that if women come from a job with a lower pay then it is difficult for them to receive jobs with a higher pay if new employer inquire about salary history. Opponents of this law counter that salary history is a relevant factor when hiring someone, so employers should not be banned from asking about it.


Governor Rauner vetoed a similar bill last year. It is unclear what he will do once this new bill reaches his desk.


Do you think that employers should be prohibited from asking about salary history when interviewing someone? Do employers questioning potential employees about their salary history contribute to a gender pay gap?


Illinois OKs Medical Marijuana for Pain


With fears rising about the abuse of prescription painkillers, especially opioids, Illinois legislators think they may have an alternative – medical marijuana.


These legislators passed a bill that would allow doctors to prescribe medical marijuana instead of prescription painkillers for a variety of ailments. The bill would also remove the requirements that medical marijuana users go through a background check and be fingerprinted. It is aimed at expanding access to medical marijuana in the hopes of deterring dependency on, and abuse of, opioids.


By creating a pilot program for Illinois residents with pain issues to have access to medical marijuana, legislators hope to give them an alternative to opioids. Proponents of this program point to evidence that suggests where medical marijuana is available there is less consumption of opioids.


If this bill becomes law, there will still be significant state restrictions on who can use medical marijuana and how doctors can recommend it. There are also tight limits on medical marijuana dispensaries.


Governor Bruce Rauner has not yet indicated if he would sign this legislation.


Do you think that states should allow patients to use medical marijuana in place of opioids?


Illinois Governor Wants to Revive Death Penalty


It has been 18 years since Illinois stopped executing prisoners on death row. If Governor Bruce Rauner gets his way, however, the death penalty will once again become part of the state’s criminal justice system.


Under a proposal floated by Gov. Rauner, prosecutors could seek a death sentence for someone who commits mass murder or murders a police office. He said imposing this ultimate penalty is necessary to protect public safety.


Illinois formally repealed the death penalty in 2011. This followed a moratorium put in place in 2000 by then-Governor George Ryan. This moratorium lasted for ten years and was established in response to a series of questionable prosecutions and the exoneration a death row prisoner.


Gov. Rauner says that there will be safeguards put in place to guard against wrongful convictions and inconsistent application of the death penalty. Opponents of capital punishment say that regardless of the precautions taken by the state, there is always that chance that an innocent person could be convicted and executed.


Reinstatement of the death penalty must be approved by the legislature. With Democrats in charge of both houses of the legislative branch, it is unlikely that the governor’s idea will be enacted.


Do you think that Illinois should bring back the death penalty for someone who murders a police officer or commits mass murder?


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