By Mark Wachtler
December 15, 2015. Springfield. (ONN) The Illinois affiliate of the third largest political party in America has officially endorsed a Democratic proposal to decriminalize marijuana possession statewide. The legislation would make possession of small amounts of cannabis a ticketed offense, not a criminal offense punishable with jail time. Leading the charge is the Libertarian candidate for Illinois Comptroller - Claire Ball.
State Rep Kelly Cassidy, sponsor of the marijuana decriminalization Bill.
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Illinois Herald readers are familiar with Claire Ball. This publication enthusiastically endorsed her candidacy for a seat on the College of DuPage Board of Trustees last year. Unfortunately, with an army of candidates running for the office, Ball finished in the middle of the pack behind the incumbents and the GOP party insiders. This time, the energetic Libertarian is on the front line of a popular cause - decriminalizing marijuana in Illinois.
Already, a number of towns and counties in Illinois have decriminalized cannabis. Among them is Cook County. Even in Chicago, police officers have the option of charging an offender with criminal possession or simply writing them a ticket. The current effort is being led by State Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago) who has sponsored a House Bill (HB 4357) to decriminalize marijuana across the state. Joining Cassidy are a number of Chicago ministers and the Libertarian Party of Illinois.
If passed, the law would make possession of ten grams or less of marijuana a ticketed offense, without criminal charges. Possession of more than ten grams would still be a crime. ‘The Libertarian Party of Illinois is proud to support State Representative Kelly Cassidy’s bill which would replace criminal charges for possession of marijuana with small fines,’ yesterday’s Libertarian party announcement began, ‘This initiative has been praised by religious leaders such as the Rev. Alexander Sharp of the Clergy for a New Drug Policy and Rev. Jason Coulter, pastor of the Ravenswood United Church of Christ.’
2016 Libertarian candidates
Two of the most vocal supporters of marijuana decriminalization in Illinois are two Libertarian Party candidates in the upcoming 2016 election. Claire Ball, candidate for Illinois Comptroller said, “America has a history with prohibition, and that history shows that it doesn't work. Good people are thrown in prison, tearing families apart and creating criminal records that haunt people their whole lives - all from using a substance far less harmful than alcohol.”
Ball went on to remark, “Dangerous black markets arise in its wake, and the ensuing violence destroys entire communities. Today, cannabis is widely accepted and recognized for what it is, and the majority of Americans look forward to the benefits from both medical marijuana and hemp products. This is a step in the right direction for Illinois.”
Scott Schluter, Libertarian candidate for State Representative (CD-117), joined Claire Ball in touting his support for the proposed legislation. “It's ridiculous that we still have these barbaric laws across the country that throw people in cages because a bunch of old white guys in ties disapprove of their gardens,” he remarked, “It's past time that we start getting the government out of our garden and out of our lives.”
This isn’t the first time Schluter and Ball have taken the lead in fighting for marijuana reform in Illinois. It was only a week ago that both candidates filed a lawsuit challenging the state’s law prohibiting marijuana dispensaries and growers from making political contributions. Historically, the Libertarian Party has always been a vocal proponent of medical marijuana and marijuana decriminalization. An influx of campaign cash would help the always-underfunded Libertarians compared to the two establishment parties that oppose marijuana reform.
A poll from Public Policy Polling showed that 63% of Illinois residents favor decriminalizing marijuana. Only 27% are in favor of keeping it a criminal offense. With such strong public support, Libertarian candidates are attempting to make marijuana reform a major issue in the 2016 election.
For more information, visit the Libertarian Party of Illinois.
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