CHICAGO - Tuesday night, during a debate between the Illinois Democrat gubernatorial primary candidates, the topic of legalizing marijuana emerged. In a dramatic pendulum swing away from traditional opposition to drug availability, Democrat JB Pritzker boasted his longtime commitment to legalizing marijuana while Chris Kennedy withheld support on the issue.
That, according to JB Pritzker's campaign follow up press release, is a bad thing.
"In the past, Kennedy has called legalization a 'public health hazard' and claimed further scientific research was necessary before legalization, despite the harmful impact the policy continues to have on communities of color," Pritzker's campaign said. "While Kennedy went out of his way to imply otherwise last night, his opposition to marijuana has been steadfast throughout his campaign."
Pritzker did not mention in the release that another Democrat candidate - State Senator Daniel Biss - agreed that marijuana should be legalized, making Illinois the first midwestern state to offer recreational marijuana.
Instead, Pritzker's campaign chose to target Kennedy's lack of support for the policy change.
“Despite his attempts to mislead voters last night, Chris Kennedy has been firm in his opposition to legalizing marijuana throughout his flailing campaign,” said Pritzker communications director Galia Slayen. “This issue is too important and the impact on Illinois communities too severe for Chris Kennedy to distort where he really stands on legalization.”
A video of Tuesday night's debate is available via WMAQ TV:
The two Republican gubernatorial primary candidates Governor Bruce Rauner and State Rep. Jeanne Ives have resisted marijuana legalization. Governor Rauner said recently he was not convinced the policy would be good for Illinois, and State Rep. Ives has voted multiple times in opposition to marijuana use.
About medicinal cannabis, Jeanne Ives said she voted against this bill because despite hearing testimony after testimony about how good marijuana can make someone with a critical illness feel, the facts do not yet support that cannabis is a safe practice or good medicine.
"I have seen friends and family affected by diseases such as cancer or multiple sclerosis. I am not unsympathetic to their suffering," Ives said. "I cannot, however, subject them to a medicine that the FDA, in fact, has not yet approved and on which the Institute of Medicine, as well as American Medical Association has recommended more research."