News Local/State

Barickman: Republicans Split On Legalizing Marijuana


The sticking points for how to legalize recreational marijuana in Illinois are getting a lot less sticky. That’s according to state Sen. Jason Barickman, a Bloomington Republican who said he wants a “seat at the table” when Governor-elect JB Pritzker and Democratic lawmakers raise the issue again in 2019.

“I think it’s coming. As a Republican, I think it’s important we have a seat at the table on all issues of public policy. That’s why we do what we do—to influence the outcome in a manner we agree with,” Barickman said. “I’ve been upfront about the fact that I plan to sit at that negotiating table.”

Barickman will be the featured speaker Dec. 4 at the McLean County Chamber of Commerce’s BN The Know event in Bloomington, titled “Recreational Marijuana and the Business Community.”

Now 33 states have legalized marijuana to some degree, and recreational pot use is now legal in 10 states, along with Washington, D.C. But possessing, selling or using marijuana remains illegal under federal law. Pritzker campaigned on his support for legalizing marijuana.

Barickman, who joined the General Assembly in 2011, is one of several Republicans who’ve expressed an openness to marijuana in recent months. Republican candidate for attorney general Erika Harold, who lost Nov. 6 to Democrat Kwame Raoul, called it “inevitable” and worth planning ahead for.

Other Republicans, including McLean County Sheriff Jon Sandage, oppose full legalization.

“Republicans are split on this issue,” Barickman said. “There are certain Republican voters who are opposed to any form of legalization, including medical, which is the law of the land in Illinois. They’re opposed for a host of reasons, and I’m very respectful of that. I hear that. I’m not dismissive of their opposition.

“I’ve also heard from Republican party chairmen to tea party activists to plain old Republican voters who say, look, tax and regulate it. That’s the proper role of government on this one,” he added. “So there’s a group of Republicans who support the position I’ve staked out here.”

Barickman said his two top concerns are how to discourage use by minors and mitigate risk to the public, such as driving under the influence. But those “gaps” are starting to get filled in with solutions, Barickman said, as lawmakers continue discussions on a possible 2019 bill.

“That’s how you earn the support of someone like me,” he said.

Barickman said he’s happy to see lawmakers leading on this issue, rather than waiting for a public referendum to force their hand. That’s a riskier way to approach public policy.

“Illinois approaches this one the correct way. We need to be in front of the popular opinion and put those regulations in place that represent the reasonable expectations the public has for how this would become legal,” he said.