Illinois: Plan To Burn 5,525 Pounds Of Pot Ignites Activists


Photo: Brian Jackson/Sun-Times
Headed for the incinerator: 5,525 pounds of marijuana seized last week by the Cook County sheriff’s office

​​Medical marijuana activists are hotly protesting plans by Cook County, Illinois, officials to burn more than 5,500 pounds of cannabis seized last week in a big pot bust.

“Depending on its purity, that represents a lot of medicine that could have helped so many Illinoisans,” said Julie Falco, a North Side woman who uses marijuana to ease the symptoms of multiple sclerosis.
Her reaction was echoed by others calling on Illinois to join 14 other states in legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes, reports Vernon Clement Jones at the Chicago Sun-Times. Last Wednesday’s seizure of 5,525 pounds of pot — and the subsequent plan to burn the cannabis — has ignited a hot debate.

Photo: Brian Jackson/Sun-Times
Here’s a closeup of some of the 5,525 pounds of seized marijuana. Looks like schwag to me!

​The marijuana, with a street value estimated by police at $20 million, was found in a house in suburban Lyons, police said Friday. Frederico Moreno, 35, who was renting the place, has been charged with manufacturing and delivering cannabis. He faces from six to 30 years in prison if convicted.
Police said they are planning to incinerate all but 10,000 grams of the pot, saving that amount as evidence.
“We will solicit a court order today to have the rest incinerated safely,” said Kevin Ruel, deputy chief of special investigations for the Cook County sheriff’s office.
But medical marijuana advocates object to that plan.
“Incinerating it is a waste,” said Lisa Lange, who said she uses marijuana to ease chronic pain associated with degenerative osteoarthritis. “I would prefer to see it tested and then, if safe, distributed to compassionate care clubs.”
But according to Lange, even the thousands of pounds of marijuana seized last week, which police said would have ended up on Chicago’s streets, won’t make much of an impact on the local supply.
“The only way to stop this trafficking is to show compassion for those who rely on medical cannabis and pass Bill 1381,” said Lange.
The Illinois Senate has already passed that legislation. House Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie) is planning to introduce it for a vote in the House, probably early next year.
He now has 58 of the 60 votes needed to get the measure passed in January, Lang said Saturday. The liberal Democrat said he’s confident the remaining votes can be secured after the pressure of November elections has passed.
“There is support on both sides,” Lang said Saturday. “What we have is a very narrow piece of legislation that avoids the problems of dispensaries like those in California.”
Bill 1381 would stop short of setting up dispensaries. The Illinois legislation has been described as “the most limited” in the nation — but I doubt it could be even more restrictive than New Jersey’s badly flawed law, since it would at least (unlike N.J.) allow patients to cultivate marijuana at home, although it would restrict them to only three plants.
If passed, the the legislation would expire after three years, at which time the Legislature would have the option of renewing it.