For all of us 2020 is right around the corner and with it comes a new chapter in history and our lives, especially for those of us that live in Illinois. For those who are not in the loop, Illinois will become the 11th state to legalize marijuana in the United States of America starting January 1st, 2020. Thus, ushering in a new era of personal freedom for its citizens not seen in decades, especially for those who live in Chicago. Where in 2016, 13.5 thousand arrests were made for cannabis alone. There are some who think that the only change they are going to experience is that their supply of pot to move from their friends to a store. However, I think it’s incredibly important to illuminate a much bigger picture, reaching far beyond saving taxpayers Millions of dollars arresting non-violent drug offenders. This shift is going to be one of the wildest experiences Chicago has ever seen, in the past century. With so many facets as to how this is going to impact people living in Illinois, it’s important to touch on the key ones to understand them; as there is potential for amplifying the beneficial changes that it brings by doing so.
To understand why 2020 is going to be such a wild year for Chicago, it’s important to first understand one large factor of Chicago’s Socio-economic position, and its effect on American culture. That is that Chicago is one of the most segregated cities in America, an elephant in the room of what is the roots and symptoms of Chicago’s current problems as a city. This factor is a great barometer for Chicago’s current position on addressing the problems of its people, as well as a way to potentially measure potential improvement as this changes in the future. Depending on the sources selected, Chicago is in the top 5 most segregated cities in America consistently. It is important to keep this in mind as many of the factors that keep the city divided are going to be impacted by this upcoming change, both directly and indirectly. Interestingly, it is Chicago’s institutional corruption, greed and societal indifference that will be the drivers of the upcoming beautiful changes we are going to see. Which, as America’s physical and metaphorical center of the united states, will echo out into the eastern, western and southern parts of the country. Chicago is afterall a microcosm of the macrocosmic issues we are seeing as a nation.
A problem since the turn of the previous century, Chicago is historically the most corrupt city in America, and Illinois is one of the most corrupt states in the country. A factor that took deep roots in the early 1900’s, when prohibition gave gangsters of the time the means, to build underground empires that burrowed into the heart of Chicago’s political system. These underground empires, in turn had an affect on every institution in the area, including the businesses, schools and unions. Now one may think that with alcohol prohibition being repealed in 1933 that these problems are of a bygone era, but these systems still exist in a modern form. Those who live here still hear the echoes and see the fingerprints within contemporary Chicago society today.
With corruption being the driving force of many aspects of the city, and for so long, it’s easy to understand why people have gotten used to it. They actually don’t know of any other way after 100 years of living with such a system. Here is where legal pot comes in and starts to put a twist on the game. You see, the reason that the pot laws moved so fast through the government, was not about increasing the freedom of the American people or giving them tools for increasing the quality of their life. The reason they passed was due to greed in a corrupt system that has reached a point it can’t sustain itself without a new source of income. Right now, Chicago’s school workers are striking because our educational system has become untenable. Chicago’s pensions have been robbed for so long, the government has no foreseeable way of recouping the funds needed to pay them. The city is in a financial crisis, while having the highest combined state and local sales tax in the nation. Recent new political leaders have come in, which is something new for the city, but that alone is not what drove these new laws. Greed and desperation were at the root of this boon for the people. However, outside of those leaders who do want to see people in this state and city do well, this will turn out to be a monkey’s paw. As pot based tax revenue comes in, and it will come in on levels commensurate with other states who have legalized pot, the state and city will now have access to a huge amount of capital, which was never available before. More than enough capital to fix every problem every politician and political figure has refused to address and fix directly by stating they didn’t have the money needed.
How much money? Well looking at the fact that Colorado has collected $1.1B in revenue since pot became legal in 2014 there….
So much money, that all our schools can be of the highest quality in the nation, no matter where they are located in the city.
So much money, that all our roads can be repaired and municipal projects can be based on 10, 30, 50, 100, 200 year growth projections, not band aid fixes causing us to be perpetually under construction.
So much money, that the pension crisis can not only be fixed, but we can afford to create legislation that prevents anyone from unbalancing the system again. As well as putting in programs to heal the societal wounds that brought about the situation in the first place
So much money, that we can hire people to clean up every single neighborhood in Chicago top to bottom. Thus raising the standard of living for every Chicagoan, no matter what neighborhood they live in.
So much money, that the cities outrageous tax increases over the years can be lowered.
Beyond the money coming in from Pot sales, the money saved from no longer prosecuting, detaining and housing non-violent drug offenders will be able to be used for even greater good. Allowing our hard working and overworked police force to focus on solving every crime related to corruption, gang violence, and theft. A change that will take more than a year but a change that will happen nonetheless.
Every single excuse the people has been given for not being able to fix these problems, and more, has been a lack of money. Thank God that – that excuse is no longer valid come 2020. The loss of that excuse, gives the people the power to hold their elected officials accountable.
In addition to all these wonderful opportunities for the people of Illinois and Chicago, there are all sorts of other benefits. For example, once these laws go into place Illinois is going to have the largest number of non-violent drug offenders records expunged (600-700k). These people will not only be able to have a very different experience while searching for work, they are also going to have their intellectual and emotional wounds from being punished by such a system healed. This healing will take time, and it may not be apparent immediately, however it will be seen within the first year and continue to grow from there. Within three years, only those with the deepest wounds, or those who wish to hold onto their wounding as part of their identity, will continue to be deeply affected. As this process progresses, I believe positive healing societal pressure will help even those most deeply suffering from these wounds and full healing of these specific wounds will be an inevitability.
All of these wonderful benefits will progress naturally and that’s even before we start talking about the benefits that pot brings, in and of itself. When plant medicine, such as pot, is used to focus on healing, instead of avoidance and numbing, it is a deeply healing medicine both mentally and physically. When used with meditation, yoga and terepy pot can allow users to access wounds and trauma that traditional tools struggle to address and heal alone. Recreationally, it helps individuals find non violent ways to relieve stress through its properties and the sheer entertainment of its use. Additionally, its ability to open up creative pathways within us, will bring about new ways of thinking, feeling and experiencing life that those, who were raised on the controlling lies of prohibition, will now be able to access, should they choose to. Those who feel fear or shame around their use of pot will now be able to be open and free with how they choose to express their freedoms in life. Even if some people are only exposed tangentially through connecting with individuals who do elect to enjoy pot as medication or healthy recreation, even they will still grow from the experience.
Finally, the people of Illinois, and Chicago, now armed with a natural choice for managing their pain, will be able to take their health into their own hands. A strong tool for those who struggle with medical conditions that do not fall into a narrow set of medical conditions controlled by the government, that want non physically addictive alternatives to prescription drugs. This is also a huge help for the heroin and opioid addiction problems which have swamped ERs, Police and our courtrooms due to drugs like Percocet and Fentanyl. There is not a single aspect of of our current systems that doesn’t stand to positively benefit from this change, especially if the people recognize and own the freedom and power that has really always been theirs to own.
If my thoughts and feelings expressed in this article do come to pass, it is my deepest hope, and prayer, that Chicago becomes a model of just how dramatically a city can change from being one of the most corrupt and toxic locations in America, to one of the most healed and vibrant. This modeling would demonstrate to the rest of the nation, the federal government, and all parts of the world affected by similar problems, that real change is not only possible but probable when the people, and the correct healing forces, come together. My ideals may be lofty however I would prefer to aim high and see us get halfway, then not see the people that live in my heart get halfway at all.