Top Kane prosecutor disappointed in recreational pot vote

  • Joe McMahon

    Joe McMahon

 
 

Kane County State's Attorney Joe McMahon said he respects, but is disappointed, in the state General Assembly's vote to legalize recreational marijuana use by Jan. 1 because he has concerns it will decrease public safety and result in more fatal crashes.

McMahon said his office will continue to focus on diversion and treatment programs for people accused of possessing marijuana, as long as they're not dealing or committing other crimes.

"I respect their decision. The governor inherited incredible challenges with our state's finances and is looking for ways to raise some revenue from other sources other than property taxes or some other form of tax," McMahon said Tuesday during his monthly media briefing. "I would compliment (Gov. Pritzker) on attempts to be creative, I guess. But my concern has always been the legalization of marijuana will have a negative impact on public safety."

McMahon pointed to a spike in traffic fatalities in Colorado and Washington since those states legalized marijuana for recreational use.

Since Colorado legalized recreational marijuana in 2012, the number of fatal crashes there involving drivers who tested positive for the presence of THC jumped 151%, while all traffic deaths increased 35% between 2013 and 2017, according to a Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area report.

The percentage of all Colorado traffic deaths involving marijuana nearly doubled from 11.43% in 2013 to 21.3% in 2017, the report said.

"It's disappointing we are going to introduce an intoxicating substance and the state is basically giving people it's blessing to use that. Our society doesn't handle intoxicating compounds and driving well," said McMahon, who hopes some of the tax revenue will be used for a public awareness campaign.

"We have zero tolerance when it comes to texting and driving or talking on a handheld cellphone," he continued. "Now we're telling the public you can sort of be high and drive. You just can't have more than (the legal threshold of 5 nanograms of active THC per milliliter of blood). That's going to have a negative impact on public safety. There's no two ways about it."

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