CHICAGO (Heartland Newsfeed) — Sen. Dan McConchie (R-Hawthorn Woods) discussed racial bias and cannabis in joint legislative committee hearings Monday.
In a nearly five-hour hearing involving the House & Senate Appropriations – Public Safety Committee, Mental Health Committee and Health & Healthcare Disparities Committee, Sen. McConchie and other legislators within the Illinois General Assembly discussed the full legalization of marijuana by passing pending legislation on the floor via House Bill 2353 and Senate Bill 316.
The first panel of witnesses addressed the committees regarding alleged arrest disparities and racial bias issues since the possession of 10 grams or less of cannabis became decriminalized. McConchie addressed the panel that this made any amount beyond 10 grams became a civil law violation with a fine instead of a criminal charge, via House Bill 121 which passed in May 2017.
“Given this are you indicating that just routine possession of small amounts of marijuana are still resulting in arrests, and if so what are they being charged with since we have changed state law to make it a civil law violation and not a criminal law that actually requires expungement,” McConchie asked.
Lanetta Haynes Turner, deputy chief of staff for the Cook County Board, cited that despite the current law, it takes time for expungement to take place and the waiting time can still negatively affect minority men who have been charged.
“We are still seeing individuals who are detained on misdemeanors for nonviolent drug offenses in our jails,” McConchie said of the drug that, if both bills are passed, would allow Illinois residents to carry up to 1 ounce of marijuana.
“I am just skeptical that when we are provided with testimony that we need to go farther to address a problem that already should be taken care of in regard to these arrests in these communities,” McConchie said.
A panel of three adolescent students speaking about racial bias delivered their testimony before the legislators and were opposed to marijuana legalization, testimony welcomed by McConchie.
“I believe in using my voice to make a change in making our community better,” Devan Smith, an African-American junior at Stevenson High School and member of the youth prevention group Catalyst Club, said, adding she came to specifically talk about the social justice argument of the legalization of marijuana.
“The idea is that minority men are prosecuted at a higher rate than white men, especially when it comes to drug related crimes,” Smith said. “Many people today have made the point of the hot button issue of the involvement of people of color and marijuana possession; however, very few of those people were African-American. I am African-American, and I would like to stop the social injustices in this country more than anyone, however legalizing marijuana is not the way to do this.”
McConchie commended the teenager.
“Thank you very much for coming out and getting up there, not a lot of kids would do that and it is important for us to hear from you guys often on many issues so please come back,” McConchie said.
Jake Leonard, a broadcast media and journalism veteran, is the editor-in-chief of Heartland Newsfeed. Leonard is also GM and program director of Heartland Newsfeed Radio Network, wrestling editor and contributing writer for Ambush Sports, a contributing writer for My Sports Vote and Midwest Sports Network, and a former contributor to Bleacher Report and Overtime Heroics. He resides at home in Nokomis, Ill. with his dog Buster.