Illinois recently legalized medicinal use of marijuana, and over 2000 state residents have already applied for it. The state is now taking applications for licensed distributors to begin selling it in 2015.

Believe it or not, Illinois is actually the second state on our borders that allows medical marijuana, Michigan being the other (though it’s still illegal to sell or use recreationally in both states). Additionally, within the city limits of Chicago, possession of up to 15 grams is punishable by a fine instead of jail time. Ohio has similar penalties for small amounts. While possession or distribution is still illegal, such loosened penalties like these suggest that lawmakers are starting to see that casual use does not make a person a criminal per se.

I’ll hasten to point out that pot is still illegal in all instances within the borders of Indiana. The closest thing to reform we’ve had was a very modest bill that would allow medicinal use defenses in trial, which did not pass the state legislature.

Still, the stigma of marijuana is withering as more states loosen restrictions. Decriminalization or medical legalization are happening nationwide. And while Washington and Colorado are the only states that have flat-out legalized it so far, a few states have floated the idea to legalize and tax it to raise much-needed state revenues (Illinois being one of them). If the dominoes keep falling, it could become legal in Indiana in the foreseeable future.

The national consensus is shifting so rapidly that nobody is really talking about the negatives, but they are there. For one, despite the fact that Colorado and Washington have raised tax revenue off it, legalization hasn’t been the budget-balancing cash cow that lawmakers have advertised. More pertinent, the general consensus seems to have come to the conclusion that marijuana is practically harmless, or at least less harmful than tobacco or alcohol. I can’t say for certain about those comparisons, but a few studies have suggested that it can have a moderately harmful effects on the brain. Just because a substance has proven medical benefits does not make it completely harmless. Though have you seen the list of side-effects that get rattled off for FDA-approved medications in television commercials lately?

But does that mean the law should make adults’ choices for them, and we should criminalize otherwise-upstanding citizens who use it recreationally? I don’t think so.

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