Before Illinois’ recent passage of marijuana legalization goes in effect Jan. 1, 2020, it is still relatively unclear how the state will enforce the laws already in place.

Amid a rather busy legislative session, with the legalization of sports betting as well as pay increases for government officials spearheaded by Gov. JB Pritzker, the importance of this bill not only lies in the tax dollars the state will pocket from expected cannabis tariffs, but also in its new role as a legal substance.

Like most people, and especially on any college campus anywhere, weed, frankly, is a sure-fire cash-grab for a struggling Illinois economy, thus legally allowing marijuana to be more accessible to those who can buy it.

The bill, in short, is comparable to the stipulations and guidelines set to alcohol: Must be over the age of 21 as DUIs, illegal amounts of or open and public use are off the table by law.

More specifically to college students, the literal thirst we all experience during our freshman and sophomore years now pertains to marijuana use starting New Year’s Day.

It is illegal to sell alcohol to minors as it is illegal to sell cannabis under this upcoming provision - even though illegal exchange will more than likely be maintaining its main method of distribution.

Regardless, the state is in uncharted territory, being the first to (expectedly) legalize cannabis through legislative endeavors once Pritzker checks it off his list.

Legislators like state Sen. Jason Barickman and Normal Chief of Police Rick Bleichner both have expressed their concerns with this new bill. Bleichner, portraying the stern police chief, has more trepidation than others, saying that this bill is “premature” due to standard rush and lack of funding towards a regulated task force.

Barickman sways otherwise, disallowing things such as future safety concerns as they are just that: for the future. He has a point thought: if adults can make their own decisions, no one can stop them from doing so. Barickman still thinks the safeguards put in place for this bill should be enough to retract any doubt, however, safety was a main concern for legislators when in session this past week.

So where do we as students fit in this? Is there an underlying problem with this relatively new idea of accumulating state tax dollars?

Yes and no. The trickle down effect for legal consumers to distribute on their own is very likely, and while those like Bleichner obviously frown on criminal acts, those over 21 buying and selling to minors are just waiting to get caught, just like alcohol.

It could cause problems in the general outlook about how we view marijuana as a society, as it is a substance of opinion severity in the eyes of both users and opposers.

Nevertheless, this bill frees cannabis from the shackles of confinement and outwardly acknowledges what tokers have been doing in plain sight for years. People, of all shapes and sizes with different reasons and races are able to use cannabis freely and without warrant to arrest, allowing the civil suits of conviction of cannabis to be re-assessed in the future.

But for now, it’s all up in smoke.

JONATHAN BARLAS is Editor in Chief of The Vidette. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @janveselybarlas

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