With the recent legalization of marijuana in one of Illinois, which hosts America’s most gang-infested city, one must ask themselves: Is this really something Illinois should be focused on?
Illinois decided to kick of the beginning of a new decade by legalizing recreational use of marijuana, thus becoming the eleventh state to do so. The first day of legalization brought in nearly $3.2 million in sales, and an additional $2.2 million worth of pot products was sold on the second day for a total combined income of $5.4 million. Based on these statistics, it’s obvious that legalization was a move that has and most likely will continue to bring in large amounts of money. Despite this, Illinois is home to some of the most dangerous cities such as Chicago and East St. Louis. Because of this, it begs the question: Was this really the right move for the state of Illinois when it has much more important issues lurking? And what exactly are these issues that affect these cities?
The poverty rate in Illinois is 13.5%, with one out of ever 7.4 residents living in poverty. However, in cities such as Chicago, it’s much higher with a poverty rate of 18.6%. African-American’s are also the ones most affected, with 32.0% living below the poverty rate. Nearly 40% of all black males in Chicago ages 20-24 are out of work, and nearly 90% of black youth age 16-19 are jobless.
These figures are much higher than other major cities, and are the result of jobs being heavily centered in Chicago’s central financial district—labeled “the Loop”—and its wealthy suburbs in the north and west. In contrast, the south side and the southern suburbs, known for their concentrated poverty and racial segregation, have much fewer job opportunities. For instance, communities in the city’s north side have between 10,362 and 31,427 jobs, while no area below the south side neighborhood of Hyde Park has more than 6,692 jobs. Thirteen of the 25 community areas in the south have less than 3,000 jobs each.
Illinois is also home to two of the most dangerous cities in America. East St. Louis, Il., has the nation’s highest murder rate, with the chances of being murdered in East St. Louis being 19 times greater than the national average. The national homicide rate is around 5 murders for 100,000 people, but in East St. Louis, it’s 96 murders per 100,000. Most of the criminals aren’t charged too, with only 25 percent of the murders being charged in criminal court, compared to a national average of 60 percent.
Another major city in Illinois with a high homicide rate is Chicago. Although the homicide rate has fallen from it’s 2016 spike of 771 murders that year, 2019 still had 492 homicides, with most of them resulting from gang violence.
Chicago is considered to be the most gang-infested city in the United States, with over 150,000 people actively engaging in nearly 60 factions. Eight people are shot every three hours on a typical day in Chicago, and if one of those shooting victims is fatal, you have more than a 50% chance of getting away with it. Experts say this is due to people distrusting the police, and many people being afraid to speak out, largely due to the “no-snitching” policy that many gang members live by and have infused into black culture.
Illinois decision to legalize marijuana is not all bad however. Certain individuals convicted of cannabis related crimes would become eligible for pardons. This is especially helpful in the case of black people, considering that we’re four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana charges than white people, make up nearly 30% of all drug-related arrests despite accounting for only 12.5% of substance users, and are 6 times more likely to be incarcerated for drug related offenses then white people. Marijuana legalization throughout the country would also save roughly $7.7 billion per year in overted law enforcement costs, as well as yield an additional $6 billion in tax revenue.
The Marijuana Policy Project believes more than 750,000 cannabis-related cases will be eligible for the expungement under this measure. However, while all of these are potentially great things, it’s clear that this should not be a main priority of Illinois when there are much more harmful important issues that need attention such as poverty, violence, and gang activity. In my opinion, these issues should’ve been resolved first rather than later, especially when it’s ranked #48 out of 50 in terms of economic outlook