Law enforcement wants a 'seat at the table' if recreational pot is legalized

Marijuana (File Photo)

If recreational marijuana is legalized, law enforcement officials want to ensure they have a seat at the negotiating table to address safety concerns they have.

"We realize that it's coming, but at the same time we want to make sure that while we're not fans of it, we also want to make sure that we're prepared," Illinois Sheriffs' Association Executive Director Jim Kaitschuk said.

Legalizing recreational marijuana is an issue that Governor-Elect J.B. Pritzker campaigned on and now, with news of several lawmakers sponsoring bills to legalize the plant, it appears that could become a reality rather quickly.

"I know that [Senator] Heather Steans and [Representative] Kelly Cassidy are working hard on a bill right now and I've given them a lot of input about what it is I think needs to happen," Pritzker said.

Pritzker's transition team released the following statement regarding legalizing recreational marijuana:

“JB supports legalizing and taxing the recreational use of marijuana, which is estimated to generate as much as $700 million a year for the state. He is committed to working with community stakeholders and policy makers to legalize and decriminalize marijuana, reduce mass incarceration, and reinvest in Illinois communities. JB will prioritize the safety of Illinoisans and believes marijuana can be legalized in a safe manner. He will put in place a strong regulatory system and framework to license businesses and will draw lessons and best practices from other states that have already legalized. JB will also prioritize inclusion as we move towards legalization. Legalizing marijuana is a central component of his criminal justice reform and economic inclusion plans, which are core priorities of the campaign. JB will place an emphasis on intentionally including black and brown entrepreneurs in the planning and licensing of new marijuana businesses, ensuring new jobs and businesses are created in the communities that have experienced the disinvestment in the past.”

Those in favor of legalization said it'll be a huge boost to the state's economy.

"Just in the tax revenues alone, I think they're talking about maybe $500-$700 million," HCI Alternatives Owner Chris Stone said.

Stone said if recreational marijuana is legalized, it'll also boost job numbers.

But some, like Kaitschuk, worry it could be dangerous.

"Drugs and alcohol are involved in a lot of different disturbances and activities that involve law enforcement at some point in time," Kaitschuk said. "Without drugs or alcohol, maybe we wouldn't have to be there. So it's obviously a concern for us as an industry."

While Kaitschuk doesn't support legalizing recreational marijuana, he's not blind to the fact that it's becoming more likely to happen.

That's why he wants to be part of negotiations.

"We need to make sure we have a seat at the table, regardless of our position on this to talk about what the impact's going to be on our folks and how you want us to deal with it," Kaitschuk said.

Kaitschuk hopes if this does pass, police agencies get additional funding.

"At the end of the day, we talked about traffic accidents. You may have medical issues that come with this as well. We're going to be the ones dealing with this on a first-hand basis," Kaitschuk said.

Illinois law only requires the legislature and governor to approve this measure.

It doesn't need to be taken up by voters through a ballot initiative.

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