Chicago Mayor and former White House Chief of Staff for President Obama, Rahm Emanuel (D) has called on the Illinois state legislature to reform drug laws and decriminalize marijuana.
Emanuel is asking the legislature to adopt a statewide version of the 2012 Chicago law that made possession of up to 15 grams of marijuana only a ticketable offense. He also wants to see possession of one gram or less of any controlled substance reduced from a Class Four Felony to only a Class A Misdemeanor.
“It is time to put our sentencing policies in line with our values, reduce penalties for non-violent, low-level drug offenses so we don’t put people in prison who need drug treatment,” said Mayor Emanuel in a press release. “It doesn’t make sense that one arrest for a very small amount of a controlled substance can lead to a lifetime of struggles, sending people in and out of prison and putting up barriers to getting a job or finding a place to live. We need action from Springfield.”
I’m personally no fan of Emanuel because he seems like a deeply cynical and opportunistic politician who has created some very sketchy financial deals between the government and private companies, but every politician deserves credit when they do something right. I’ll just note that this is highly cynical even by Emanual’s standards, given he was once one of the biggest drug warriors in the America who aggressive fought against medical marijuana when part of the Clinton administration
In fact I’m very happy to see Emanuel actively lobbying for marijuana decriminalization, because I know what a cynical finger-in-the-wind politician he is. Emanuel embracing drug policy reform is a real sign that top Democrats are finally starting to realize this can be a winning political issue that could actually benefit them if they endorsed it.
It is telling that this moves comes as Emanuel faces a potentially very difficult re-election bid this February. Emanuel is like a rat fleeing a shrinking ship. Hopefully, other politicians will get the message.