EDITORIAL: Illinois Family Institute is truly ignorant on the benefits of legal pot

There are times when we know some editorials and letters to the editor are so outrageously ridiculous, they don’t even warrant being seen in the public eye, whether online or in your daily newspaper. I’ve ran into this twice today regarding the same letter to the editor that was submitted this afternoon.

A letter to the editor submitted to not only this publication, but also the Free Press-Progress in Nokomis, this afternoon came from Kathy Valente from the Illinois Family Institute regarding the current debate in the Illinois General Assembly about possible full legalization of marijuana. I’m part of a three-member editorial board at the former publication and after reading through it, noting it had very little to no valid evidence supporting Valente’s argument, we voted NOT to publish the article in next week’s issue.

While I’m not publishing this letter on its own, I’m going to break down this entire letter, explaining about how ridiculous this letter is and why it deserves to be refuted by this editorial board.

While Big Marijuana pours millions into Illinois to legalize marijuana, leftist lawmakers, giddy about a tiny new revenue source to aide their insatiable spending, ignore the unmistakable damage legislation is causing in Colorado. Those nasty facts are hard to escape.

First off, this first paragraph automatically screams, “Hey, we’re the Illinois Family Institute and we’re shills for Big Pharma.” Sure, Democrats in the General Assembly pushed for full legalization back in 2015 in the form of Senate Bill 753 (only for further action to die off at the end of the 99th legislative session), but now the discussion is coming back for potential debate in 2018, even with House Republicans like Allen Skillicorn and David Welter seriously considering support as they poll opinions from their constituents.

“A tiny new revenue source”? Sure, it may seem small, but since Colorado passed full legalization in 2014, tax revenues have gone up from $67.6 million in 2014 to $205.08 million in 2017 through the end of October. That’s nothing to huff and puff about based on a 2.9% sales tax on all marijuana sales, both medicinal and recreational, a 15% retailer tax and a 15% excise tax, also including application and licensure fees.

While Colorado is run by a split General Assembly (Democrat majority in the House, Republican majority in the Senate), under the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) which has been active since 1992, legislators are prohibited from passing excessive taxation and excessive spending. There is also an independent citizen committee that oversees the tax revenue and dictates where that money goes.

What is the benefit of full legalization? Colorado is the poster child in the financial department — the state has paid off the majority of their liabilities with their debt to be paid off before 2020 and a lot of departmental funding has already been funded by the marijuana taxes through the 2022-23 fiscal year. Washington’s debt and liabilities could be paid off by no later than 2022. And in California, who passed full legalization not too long ago, could pass off their debt and liabilities by 2030, barring any additional spending.

Honestly, please enlighten me how the legislation which ensured full legalization has caused undue harm in the state of Colorado, because what follows makes very little sense:

Colorado now ranks #1 in the entire nation for marijuana use among teens, scoring 55 percent above the national average, so says the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

Colorado high school drug violations have increased 71 percent and suspensions for drugs have increased 45 percent since legalization.

Honestly, while not necessarily public knowledge, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health is done by the same people who run Big Pharma and Big Tobacco, not to mention those who started the D.A.R.E. program and the Partnership for a Drug-Free America. For all we know, those figures could be about as fabricated as the data from various Federal departments that’s presented to us and are incredibly inaccurate.

What a teenager decides to do with their bodies is none of my business or yours.

Valente continues with her tirade of invalid intolerance:

Based on alarming research by the Denver Post, drivers in fatal car crashes who tested positive doubled since legalization.

Again, the Denver Post has a reputation of expressing bias on the subject and it’s likely highly that more than half of their data is invalid or fabricated. Even if there was any reported cases of fatal car crashes under the influence of marijuana, it dwarfs in comparison to the 88,000 who die from alcohol poisoning, 480,000 who die from smoking tobacco products and upwards of 750,000 dying every year from pharmaceutical drugs, especially that of prescription drugs that include opium. How many people REALLY die from smoking marijuana? Zero, zilch, nada.

Residential neighborhoods reek of marijuana as do warehouse growing operations along major freeways. As if that isn’t enough, the Colorado homelessness growth rate now ranks among the highest in the country.

Again, Valente shows no valid proof of such allegations that “residential neighborhoods and warehouse growing operations” reek of marijuana or that of the rate of growth of homelessness in Colorado. Where’s the proof, considering you didn’t share any?

The bottom line is this: Does Illinois want more drugged drivers on our roads, more buzzed employees on job sites, and more stoned students in our homes and schools?

If the answer is no, don’t remain silent. Tell your state representative and senator to oppose legalization efforts before it is too late.

Never once in Valente’s letter did she ever include any valid, unbiased evidence showing that there are drivers under the influence of marijuana and treats it as if it is some epidemic that needs to be stopped. Even if people were driving under the influence of marijuana, that number is very small. I’ve had employees in the information technology sector who would report to a digital signage job stoned out of their mind and were far more productive than someone who reported to work stone cold sober. But honestly, who cares what you do in your own time? What you do is your business, not mine or anybody else’s.

And then she pleads for you to call your local legislators to oppose full legalization efforts. I expressed my support for full legalization on both discussions that were posted by Representatives Welter and Skillicorn. I’d express the same should my local representation via Representative Avery Bourne and Senator Andy Manar if the issue was ever pressed.

I only request one thing should full legalization is approved: all taxes on marijuana sales should be overseen by a citizen committee and the people on this committee, devoid of money-grubbing politicians, will determine where that money gets disbursed to. That removes the element for Democratic legislators to tax and overspend like they always do. My request would involve a twelve-member citizen committee with four people representing each part of the state (Northern Illinois to I-80, Central Illinois from I-80 to I-70 and Southern Illinois) and include one Democrat and one Republican, with the other two seats in each region held by independents or members of third parties, e.g. Libertarian, Green, etc.

Cannabis was a staple crop starting 8,000 years ago, which was used for various methods, including the production of rope. Herodotus documented the positive health effects in its utilization in steam baths around 440 BC and was even used in over-the-counter medications, according to Martin Booth’s book Cannabis: A History.

The history behind why cannabis or marijuana became illegal is based on a racist campaign against Mexicans launched by the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, then a division of the U.S. Treasury Department, and commissioner Harry J. Anslinger in the early 1930s as a desperate attempt to remain funded due to President Herbert Hoover and Congress cutting funding to the Bureau following the repeal of the prohibition of alcohol, which was later mentioned in Booth’s book. In this racist campaign, Anslinger claimed that marijuana “makes Mexicans thirst for white blood.” Anslinger would later testify before Congress, making false claims that marijuana is an addictive drug that produces in their users “insanity, criminality and death.”

Following Anslinger’s Congressional testimony, police would blame all murders and “sex outrages” on marijuana usage and Hollywood would release their own false propaganda in the 1936 film Reefer Madness. With Anslinger’s assistance, Congress banned marijuana in 1937 and passed the first mandatory minimum sentencing laws, which resulted in a first-time offense resulting in up to ten years in prison.

The government knew Anslinger’s claims were false and even science proved marijuana had no connections to violence, criminality, insanity or death, based on a 1973 commission report from the bipartisan National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse, which recommended that President Richard Nixon decriminalize marijuana, but would be ignored launching what we know as the failed war on drugs, which has cost the American taxpayers far more money than the street value of all the drugs combined in over four decades.

In 1994, former Nixon aide John Ehrlichman spilled the beans on the entire ordeal:

We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.

So the Illinois Family Institute is following an outdated, non-compatible ideology that was enforced by a racist governmental official eight decades ago, which would later become a war on drugs pushed by a Republican president who ruled like a Democrat that has become a massive drain on the taxpayers and created more victims than the ones the government claims they’re preventing drug usage from happening, even four decades later.

So not only is the Illinois Family Institute considered a hate group for their anti-LGBT views, they have proved in this letter to be against individual freedoms, which Libertarians strongly support such freedoms in contrast to the two major authoritarian parties.

In other words, given enough tax revenue from marijuana sales, the way could be paved to abolish the individual and corporate income taxes and abolish the general sales tax, which still runs at 6.25% to 6.5% across most of Illinois. It is highly likely that property taxes could be abolished as well. There are far more incentives and positives in full legalization than keeping things as it is.

Jake Leonard is the editor-in-chief of Heartland Newsfeed. He is general manager of Heartland Internet Media Networks and an active contributor to four newspapers for Pana News Group. He also serves as chairman of Tri-Counties Libertarian Party and Capital Area Libertarian Party, deputy candidate recruitment director for the Libertarian Party of Illinois and as chairman/co-founder of the Libertarian Party Millennial Caucus.

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