Should Will, Grundy, and Kendall County and communities in those counties ban the sale of recreational marijuana?
That is what each Illinois county and community must decide in the next four months, before the new law legalizing it takes effect on Jan. 1, 2020.
Colorado legalized recreational marijuana in 2014, so we can learn something from their first few years. If our experience is anything like Colorado’s, legalized recreational marijuana will undoubtedly bring more traffic accidents and traffic fatalities to our state, as well as an increase in violent crime and property crime. It will also increase emergency department visits and hospitalizations.
According to a September 2018 report by the Strategic Intelligence Unit of the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (RMHIDTA.org), since Colorado legalized recreational marijuana (in 2014), marijuana-related traffic deaths increased 151 percent, while all Colorado traffic deaths increased 35 percent. Traffic deaths involving drivers who tested positive for marijuana more than doubled from 55 in 2013 to 138 people killed in 2017.
Also violent crime increased 18.6 percent and property crime increased 8.3 percent from 2013.
In addition, the yearly rate of emergency department visits related to marijuana increased 52 percent from 2012 to 2016, and the yearly rate of marijuana related hospitalizations increased 148 percent during that same time period.
If Illinois’ experience is anything like Colorado’s, we are clearly headed for worse times because of our new marijuana law.
Also, no increase in taxes on marijuana sales is going to pay for the overwhelming tragic effects of the sale of recreational marijuana.
In fact, according to an April 2018 Working Paper on Projected Costs of Marijuana Legalization in Illinois by SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana learnaboutsam.org), any increase in marijuana tax revenues will be surpassed by the increased dollar costs due to increases in the following areas: regulatory costs, drugged driving injuries and fatalities, auto damage, ER visits, homelessness, workplace absenteeism, workplace injuries and costs due to marijuana lab explosions.
However, there is some good news in all this. In our new state law, each Illinois city, village and county has the opportunity to limit easy access to recreational marijuana and lessen the negative effects of the new law in their local area by passing an ordinance banning the sale of recreational marijuana.
In fact, the Village of Diamond already has done that. According to Diamond’s ban ordinance: “The Village has determined that the operation of cannabis business establishments would present adverse impacts upon the health, safety and welfare of the residents, and additional costs, burdens and impacts upon law enforcement and regulatory operations of the Village.”
I agree with the Village of Diamond. If you agree, too, call your mayor, city or village representatives and county board members and urge them to vote to ban the sale of recreational marijuana.
• The Rev. Rick Barnard is the pastor of Pathway Church of Shorewood.