- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 25, 2015



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March 19, 2015

The (Champaign) News-Gazette

The great experiment with medical marijuana is off to a slow start.

Illinois’ experiment with medical marijuana is barely off the ground, still in the implementation stage 18 months after former Gov. Pat Quinn signed legislation authorizing the measure into law.

Will it turn into the fiasco it has in other states, where medical marijuana is so widely available to consumers that it’s de facto legal for everyone? Or, conversely, will it provide relief for individuals with a variety of serious ailments?

While experts dispute the notion that smoking marijuana is a legitimate medical treatment, there’s another side to the coin. If, for whatever reason, it makes people feel better and doesn’t have serious social consequences, what’s the harm?

However, it would be a mistake to suggest that the medical marijuana law will work as its backers envisioned.

Take the case of Urbana’s Luther Marlow, who was recently arrested for growing marijuana in his home that he says he consumes to keep his mental health problems at bay.

In an extraordinary interview with The News-Gazette’s Tracy Moss, Marlow said he grows his own marijuana and smokes it constantly to keep “the devil that lives inside me gone.”

Marlow said he has no interest in obtaining state-sponsored marijuana produced because it will be too expensive. As a consequence, he said he will continue to violate the law and grow his own.

How many people like Marlow are out there?

There’s a naive assumption underlying the state’s medical marijuana law that it will provide one-stop shopping for consumers and that they’ll use it as intended and not resell it at a profit.

It has long been our suspicion that medical marijuana is just a pretext for the eventual legalization of the drug. Two states, Colorado and Washington, already have gone down that path.

The fact is, there seems to be an almost-unquenchable appetite for illegal drugs, including marijuana. That’s why the war on drugs has largely failed. Decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana and increased treatment options for addiction would seem to be a better use of public resources.

But those are issues for another day. For now, medical marijuana remains on the drawing board even as its illegal consumption will continue to be a fact of life.


March 18, 2015

Peoria Journal-Star

Let the scramble for Schock’s seat begin

Just before Congressman Aaron Schock detonated his own political career on Tuesday afternoon, we were working on an editorial calling for a serious primary challenge for him a year from now, in addition to the candidate from McLean County who’s running on a platform of “Washington needs the Gospel.”

We’d heard enough to know that Schock’s constituents deserved a choice and the chance to take matters into their own hands, even if the Justice Department, the IRS, the Federal Election Commission, etc. weren’t compelled to begin investigations and/or potential prosecutions of their own. From this vantage, wholly independent of the scandal that has since sunk him, Schock should have had a primary opponent in the spring of 2014 after he joined the extremists in his party in late 2013 by linking the future of ObamaCare to raising the debt ceiling, thereby courting a government shutdown and raising the specter of default on the nation’s debt obligations.

Alas, Schock’s resignation may now set off a mad scramble for the seat, with state Sen. Darin LaHood, R-Peoria, already announcing his intentions to seek it. Three-time gubernatorial candidate and state Sen. Bill Brady of Bloomington quickly took himself out of the mix, but many other Republicans from one end of the 18th Congressional District to the other have been mentioned as possibilities.

Even a Democrat may have a shot in the 18th, for a change, in a district that, let’s face it, is drawn not to give them much of a prayer (and that’s another editorial).

We wouldn’t worry too much about appearances or political timing at this point. A special election must be held by the end of July, with the date to be set by the governor within five days of Schock’s March 31 departure. So that leaves less than four months to campaign, to become known in places some of the candidates may not be. If someone out there wants the job, they should say so and go for it.

This seat has long been held by someone from the immediate Peoria area, and to be honest, we’d prefer that situation remain, but in these circumstances that’s less important to us than getting a competitive field and a spirited debate about what the residents of the 18th District deserve from their congressman, starting with fundamental integrity and good judgment.

We live in an era when it’s popular to convict before trial, and we have tried to avoid that trap with Schock, who has not even been charged with anything, despite what some who should know better would have you believe. That said, his obvious and repeated misjudgments have been profound enough that no clones of Schock need apply, in the interests of sparing us future grief. Illinois has become so synonymous with political corruption both prosecuted and not, and there’s so much of it to go around, that the 18th District, at least, ought to refuse to contribute further to that reputation and to those ranks. Familiarity with the issues and leadership characteristics are always important, but character, to the degree that can be determined in advance, ought to be at the top of voters’ lists.


March 19, 2015

The (Joliet) Herald-News

A patron saint for openness in government

It’s Sunshine Week across the land, a time when advocates of openness in government point out how important such transparency is to the proper functioning of democracy on all levels.

Illinois, which is infamous for government corruption, needs all the transparent government it can get.

Some might say honest government doesn’t have a prayer in Illinois.

Hmm. Perhaps the effort could use a patron saint.

And we have just the man for the job: St. Patrick, whose memory has been celebrated this week.


Well, legend has it that St. Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland.

And history certainly shows that Illinois has had more than its share of “snakes” in government positions, from corrupt governors and corrupt congressmen down to corrupt city officials.

Over the years, Illinois has had enough corruption to fill a book.

That’s what authors Thomas J. Gradel and Dick Simpson just did.

Last month, they came out with “Corrupt Illinois,” subtitled “Patronage, Cronyism and Criminality,” published by the University of Illinois Press.

Most of us are familiar with four relatively recent governors who went to jail for corruption: Rod Blagojevich, currently in federal prison; George Ryan, who was released not too long ago; Dan Walker; and Otto Kerner. Three previous governors also were indicted but escaped conviction.

From Chicago, which over its history has had more aldermen convicted than you can shake a stick at, to downstate, with former Secretary of State Paul Powell and his legendary shoeboxes filled with cash bribes, “Corrupt Illinois” covers the state’s sordid history of corruption.

The thing about corruption is that it thrives in darkness. For crooked government officials, the more secrecy, the better.

Open records laws, specifically the Illinois Freedom of Information Act and the Illinois Open Meetings Act, are designed to help let the sun shine in on public records and government meetings.

When government officials know for certain their actions and records will be subject to public scrutiny, they should be less likely to risk unethical and illegal actions.

That’s the theory, anyway.

“Corrupt Illinois” offers various ideas for reform, all of which deserve consideration.

It also details previous reform efforts. Some succeeded, while others failed.

Reformers and the public who are sick of government corruption should take a lesson from St. Patrick: Keep up the pressure, and drive out the snakes.


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