Letter from the Editor: With the 4/20 Issue, The DePaulia brings you a modern take on marijuana

Gov. J.B. Pritzker campaigned on legalizing marijuana for recreational use in Illinois. He argued that the tax revenue brought in from it could help fill the gaping holes in our state’s budget and begin to repair the injustice of ever having locked people up for marijuana crimes in the first place.

Now, Pritzker says he’s ready to get to work on making Illinois the 11th state with fully legalized recreational marijuana. If he gets his way, weed will be legal by next 4/20, telling the Chicago Sun-Times recently he wants to pass a legalization bill before the state legislature goes on spring break.

Pritzker even admitted to the paper that he smoked weed himself in his younger days — no word yet on whether or not he inhaled like President Bill Clinton, who ramped up the so-called War on Drugs, incarcerating countless Americans for marijuana and other drug offenses.

The road weed and its users traveled to get to this point has been difficult. We’ve come a long way as a society from the days of “Reefer Madness,” when pot smokers were made to look like paranoid psychopaths.

But unfortunately, people are still wasting away in jail for violating Illinois’ Cannabis Control Act. In 2017, there were still 372 people incarcerated for cannabis offenses in the state, according to the Illinois Department of Corrections — half of the number imprisoned for the same crimes in 2014. So it’s a start.

But that’s still 372 people being fed and housed by taxpayers, 372 people who will miss holidays, birthdays and funerals, 372 people who will have a harder time finding a job with a criminal record, all for selling something the governor, two former presidents, and millions of Americans have admitted to using.

In 2016, then-Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a decriminalization bill that reduced the penalty for possession of less than 10 grams to a fine of $100-200. It’s better than locking people up — but pray you don’t get caught with 10.5 grams, because you still might find yourself in jail, especially if you have priors.

Now that there is a Democratic supermajority in the Illinois General Assembly and a pro-pot governor, it looks like we will finally catch up to the more progressive states. It’s high time the laws changed — it should have been done years ago.

It’s time to release the remaining prisoners incarcerated for pot crimes and make sure we never lock another one up again.

It’s time that we bring marijuana out of the shadows and into the light.

That’s why we produced this special 4/20 section — so that we can elevate the dialogue and reduce the stigma surrounding this unfairly demonized plant. In this special issue, we bring you stories that hoist marijuana, and the people who use it, out of ignominy.

We have stories about marijuana policy and the way a new program is being used to help curb opiate addiction and stories about how young pot enthusiasts get away with toking up while living in the dorms, skirting the vigilant eyes of the RA’s.

We have stories about an artisan glassblower, the booming CBD market in Chicago and even a fun piece about the coincidence of 4/20 with a religious weekend and the sacred lore of 4/20 itself.

So kick back, relax, enjoy the paper, and revel in the fact that maybe by next 4/20, cannabis connoisseurs won’t need to worry about a penalty of any kind — even a $100 fine — for enjoying something that’s completely legal in 20 percent of the country.