DECATUR — Macon County Sheriff Tony Brown said he sees flaws in the proposal to legalize recreational marijuana use in Illinois, saying the drafted bill has numerous provisions that will create public safety hazards and challenges for law enforcement.
In a news release on Wednesday, Brown joined the Illinois Sheriffs' Association and the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, who have also made public their objections to Senate Bill 7 as currently written.
"We have hundreds of jobs here in Macon County that require individuals to be sober. This bill is not how you help people pass a drug test and secure a solid, stable job," Brown said in the news release. "Illinois should learn from the mistakes that other states have made, but unfortunately this bill does not do that," Brown said.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker campaigned last year in support of legalizing recreational use of marijuana as a way to bring in much-needed revenue for the state budget, but details on how the state will form a legal market have been debated. The governor budgeted for $170 million in new revenues next fiscal year from licensing fees associated with legalization.
Before advancing the bill, sheriffs in Illinois have said lawmakers must address public safety concerns such as impaired driving, increased crime, mass expungement and insufficient resources to keep communities safe.
Pritzker said earlier this month that he had agreed with lawmakers on a plan to legalize recreational marijuana starting next year. If legalized, adults 21 and older would be allowed to buy cannabis for recreational use from licensed dispensaries. They would also eligible to possess up to an ounce, or 30 grams, of marijuana. Nonresidents could possess 15 grams. Up to five home-grown plants would also be allowed, provided certain safety conditions are met.
Illinois would also be joining 10 states in the legalization of marijuana, hoping to take effect Jan. 1.
The bill allows for the expungement of misdemeanor and Class 4 felony marijuana convictions, which Illinois State's Attorneys Association says could violate the state constitution's ban on legislative pardons.
Impaired driving is another concern for law enforcement across the state. According to the sheriff's association, a 2018 study shows cannabis-related fatal crashes increased from 31 to 174 percent. Sheriffs believe the measure has insufficient deterrence to reduce and discourage impaired driving.
"Currently, we do not have a way to test people in real-time whether they are high or sober since THC can be present in an individual's system but not inhibiting them," Brown said. "The last thing we need is more impaired driving."