Thirteen mayoral candidates in Chicago were asked whether they support marijuana legalization during a forum on Thursday. All 13 said yes, although some tried to qualify their answers.
Attorney John Kozlar (D), for example, said he agrees that if adults “want to smoke weed, smoke weed,” but he doesn’t want “kids to be introduced to it at an early age.”
Others were more blunt. Businessman Willie Wilson (D) got laughs and applause when he said “they’re going to smoke it anyways, yes.”
Former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas (D) said he risked “getting hounded” by his mother for his answer but said “yes” nonetheless.
Others notable candidates who said they backed legalization include William Daley, who served as President Barack Obama’s former White House chief of staff, and former Chicago Police Department Superintendent Garry McCarthy, who also served as police chief in Newark, New Jersey under then-Mayor Cory Booker.
— WGN TV News (@WGNNews) January 11, 2019
Two mayoral candidates, Toni Preckwinkle (D) and Neal Sales-Griffin (D), did not attend the forum. Preckwinkle is on the record supporting legalization; it’s unclear where Sales-Griffin stands on the issue.
But regardless of the individual enthusiasm of their responses, all 13 candidates for mayor present at the event said they support fully legalizing cannabis—a commonality that reflects a growing consensus on the issue, particularly among Democratic politicians.
The Chicago mayoral election, which will be held on February 26, will determine who replaces outgoing Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D), who floated the idea last year that tax revenue from legal marijuana sales should be used to fund pensions. If no candidate gets a majority next month, a runoff will be held on April 2.
Whoever wins will have an ally in Gov.-elect J.B. Pritzker (D), who made legalization a centerpiece of his gubernatorial campaign. Prtizker has said that he wants to get the ball rolling on cannabis reform shortly after he’s sworn in next week.
Sen. Heather Steans (D) has already filed a bill to legalize and tax cannabis in the state, but details about the legislation aren’t yet available beyond its title and a short description. It’s one of a surprising number of legalization bills that have already been introduced in state legislatures across the country for newly convened 2019 sessions.
Last year, voters in Cook County, which includes Chicago, approved a non-binding ballot referendum on cannabis legalization. Sixty-three percent said Illinois should legalize, while 37 percent were against it.
Photo courtesy of WGN TV News.