By: Mark Glennon*
Legalizing marijuana is one thing but celebrating its use is entirely different. Illinois Lieutenant Governor Juliana Stratton is blind to the difference.
Instead of using Illinois’ first day of legalization to warn of marijuana’s undisputed dangers, she celebrated the event as if it were the end of prohibition of apple pie. Her picture now appears on countless national stories from CNN to FOX, all smiles as she was among hundreds who lined up to be among the first customers on January 1.
I’m among those who favored decriminalization but make no mistake: “The adverse effects associated with long-term cannabis use, including increased risk of mental health disorders, such as anxiety, depression and psychotic illness. Regular cannabis use is particularly problematic for young people, because of its effects on the developing brain.” That’s from the World Health Organization earlier this year, which it wrote that even while recommending that cannabis be reclassified as a lower risk narcotic.
The first day of legal recreational sale was a terrific opportunity for Illinois to get free press to warn about those facts, but Stratton had not a word on that. Instead, she only bragged about her role in legalization and on the benefits for black and brown communities. “We campaigned on it. We saw it through,” she said.
In fact, Stratton did virtually nothing on the legalization effort or, for that matter, on anything else in her term so far. Consider the scorching article from June by Rich Miller, who rarely criticizes anybody in the Prtitzker Administration harshly:
[D]epending on how you count, Stratton was in Springfield for only about 20 days during the 5-month legislative session. Her public schedule, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, shows her departing for Springfield from Chicago a few times at 6 p.m. with no events when she arrived, so I didn’t count those. Stratton completely missed the final 2 weeks of the spring session, which is typically a busy time, but was especially so this year as one hugely important bill after another was hotly debated by the House and Senate…. [H]er absence was the source of frequent chatter in Springfield, particularly when some members of the House Black Caucus began resisting pressure to vote for the cannabis legalization bill…. The governor’s office was in an “all hands on deck” mode during those final days, but according to her office, Stratton wasn’t even in Illinois. But I talked with several House Democrats, mainly Black Caucus and female members, and everyone said the same thing: They had little to no interaction with Stratton on important legislation.
With a record like that and with lost productivity being one of the concerns about marijuana, Stratton would be best advised to stay away from cameras at the hop shops.
*Mark Glennon is founder of Wirepoints.