Moylan: Don't boost another addiction-for-profit industry
By State Rep. Marty Moylan
As lawmakers, we're elected to dive into the details and pass comprehensive policies that will benefit our constituents, our communities and our state. Especially when it comes to making sweeping policy changes that will impact each and every Illinoisan, we must carefully examine the facts, weigh the pros and cons, and determine what the outcome of a new law will be.
When looking at the facts on marijuana legalization, we see the pro-side rhetoric does not match up with the facts. The more than 500-page bill released earlier this month will have far-reaching and negative consequences on our state, and it's why the General Assembly should reject marijuana legalization.
First, when we talk about the legalization of marijuana in our state, what we're really talking about is the commercialization of an addictive and highly potent drug. This isn't the marijuana of yesteryear that was 3- to 5-percent THC (the chemical that gets you high). Instead, what we have today is highly potent strains and edibles that can be up to 99 percent THC.
The commercialization of marijuana leads to public misperception that this drug isn't harmful to health, but numerous studies continue to come out that prove just the opposite. Scientific studies have directly associated regular marijuana use and higher THC content with numerous mental health issues including psychosis, depression, suicide, anxiety and even the reshaping of brain matter. For our youth, whose brains are still developing well into their 20s, drug use can have numerous consequences including cognitive impairment and poorer outcomes in school. Plus, in spite of what the pro-folks will tell you, youth use continues to rise in legal states. Is that really what we want for our kids here in Illinois?
Illinois recently raised the smoking age to 21, as lawmakers worked to push back against the harms of Big Tobacco. Every state is trying to find a solution to the opioid crisis fueled by Big Pharma. And we're working tirelessly to make our roads safer and fight back against drunk driving. Why are we working so hard to fight those problems, while also welcoming Big Marijuana into our state -- especially when tobacco, alcohol and pharma companies will be the real ones profiting off this endeavor?
They have invested billions in marijuana, and they all want a return on their investment. The proof? An ex-Big Pharma exec behind OxyContin is now the co-founder of a marijuana company. Altria, the maker of Marlboro, recently invested a whopping $1.8 billion in marijuana. Altria also owns a more than one-third stake in Juul, a company that has successfully marketed vaping and smoking to kids.
Vaping is a fast-growing market for both nicotine and marijuana use -- especially among our youth, which is incredibly concerning. If you think that these investments are about anything but getting rich, think again. Big Tobacco is investing in marijuana because it can substantially feed their growth, and some estimate they could swoop in and own one-fifth of marijuana business in the U.S.
Not only will these massive companies be profiting off the commercialization of this drug, but they will be using the same playbook to hook as many people as they can on their product -- making big profits off addiction.
Even a few months ago, news stories made marijuana feel inevitable in Illinois, but momentum is shifting as people take a look at the facts. Citizens are standing up to say "Not in Illinois," and groups like the Illinois NAACP, law enforcement associations, health care professionals, business associations and community and religious leaders are coming together to oppose pot.
We must not let another addiction-for-profit industry into our state. Illinois lawmakers must reject Senate Bill 7, and reject legal weed.
State Rep. Marty Moylan is a Democrat from Des Plaines.