Cloud of Controversy Surrounds Marijuana Legalization


Catherine Greub, Editor

Security and police officials here say they are not happy about the state’s new marijuana law, which legalizes recreational marijuana dispensaries for adults 21 and over starting Jan. 1.

Retired Lake Forest police officer and security staff member Jim Athanas said the law is a “bad idea.” He is worried it will lead to lax laws in the future.

“It’s just like the saying, give them an inch and they’ll take a mile. What is it going to be: Marijuana today and crack tomorrow?” he said. “I believe that weed fully is a gateway drug that is going to lead to problems in the future.”

While the law may have changed, Dean Michelene Tomek reminds students that it is still against the law for students to use marijuana.

“For the students we deal with, the law hasn’t changed. They are still under the age of 21. The expectations of no alcohol or drugs for students, as well as teachers coming to work under the influence, will still remain at zero tolerance,” she said.

However, Mrs. Tomek said she is “nervous that accessibility will be easier and that is going to change the usage by community members.”

Students interviewed by The Forest Scout were less concerned about the law.

Like many of the politicians who support the law, senior Tara Brunner is hopeful it will bring in much needed tax revenue. Gov. J.B. Pritzker has promised that legalized marijuana will raise more than $800 million a year.

“I personally don’t see an issue with it; I think it’s ok because it will produce tax income for those communities that choose to participate,” she said.

Senior Kathryn Hardy said she is in support of legalizing marijuana but “scared that Big Pharma will put this movement in danger and make the industry more expensive, corrupt, and dangerous.”

While Illinois will be the 11th state to legalize marijuana, the Lake Forest and Lake Bluff communities have opted not to allow dispensaries. The towns can ban recreational dispensaries, but they cannot ban private possession of weed.

Police officer Ben Grum said he is worried the law “will cause issues with students at school and give them greater access to weed.”

He is also concerned about people driving under the influence of marijuana, which he says can stay in your system for up to 30 days.

“If you deny a test when I ask if you’re under the influence, then I arrest you and take you in for a blood test that will show if you have any illegal substances in your body.”

Head of Security Lane Linder disagreed with the argument made by some proponents of the law that it will lead to a drop in crime.

“These days, THC levels are higher and psychosis rates are higher. Petty crime will go up, for example, people breaking into cars. Weed is also addictive and people who do not have the proper resources to use weed responsibly will end up wanting to experiment with more extreme drugs,” he said.

Here is a list of what the north suburban communities say on marijuana dispensaries:

Buffalo Grove – Yes, Evanston – Yes, Highwood – Yes, Niles – Yes, Northbrook – Yes, Park City – Yes, Skokie – Yes, Deerfield – Yes, pending zoning, Waukegan – Yes, pending zoning, Wheeling – Yes, pending zoning, Zion – Yes, pending zoning, Gurnee – Maybe, Rosemont – No, pending referendum, Wilmette – No, pending referendum, Glenview – No, Highland Park – No, Lake Bluff – No, Lake Forest – No, Libertyville – No, Lincolnshire – No, Park Ridge – No, Winnetka – No, Vernon Hills – No