With mid-term elections coming up later this year, campaigning efforts are getting underway. Already, one overtly pro-cannabis candidate is making headlines. As part of his new website, an Illinois Congressional candidate smokes marijuana for a campaign ad.
Benjamin Thomas Wolf is a Democratic candidate running for the 5th Congressional District in Illinois. In preparation for the primary vote on March 20, Wolf has been stepping up his campaign efforts. Most recently, that means making his support of weed explicitly clear. A new campaign ad published on the homepage of Wolf’s website features a photo of the candidate sitting in a chair holding a joint and surrounded by smoke. A painting of a U.S. flag is behind him.
Directly beneath the photo, Wolf’s attitude on weed is articulated clearly and simply. The ad says “Legalize cannabis. Vote March 20th.”
Wolf is a former FBI operative and U.S. diplomat. And, as it turns out, he’s also a big fan of cannabis. According to his website and recent interviews, he likes weed for several important reasons.
“As a cannabis user, I think it’s important we get out front and talk about it,” he told news sources recently. “We realize that cannabis can bring billions of dollars to the state, it’s medicine for millions of people around the country, it changes criminal justice reform and personally I think it’s a wonderful recreational substance as well.”
Now, Wolf is making his pro-weed position a key piece of his campaign platform. In particular, he is calling for the legalization of cannabis. Additionally, he has floated plans to spend state revenues from legal weed on public education and drug rehab programs. Finally, Wolf is also pushing to pardon anyone serving time for weed-related charges.
His website includes a list of key platform positions. One of them is “the immediate legalization of marijuana and hemp for both medicinal and recreational uses in all U.S. states, cities, and territories.”
The site also says: “This will bring billions of dollars in tax revenue and allow major reform in our criminal justice system.”
Wolf’s pro-weed position could be a big deal in Illinois. The state has seen a number of reforms on the cannabis law front, but no legalization. For example, the city of Chicago passed an ordinance to decriminalize cannabis in 2011. Despite this effort to reform weed laws, reports in more recent years have uncovered stark racial disparities in how these laws are enforced. These reports found that people of color are consistently arrested and cited more frequently than white people for marijuana possession.
Then, in 2016, the rest of the state followed suit. That year, Illinois lawmakers decriminalized weed. And at the beginning of 2018, an Illinois judge expanded the state’s list of health conditions that qualify for medical marijuana.
In the past couple years, there has been a lot of speculation that Illinois could be one of the next states to legalize recreational cannabis. But progress seemed to slow down when Governor Bruce Rauner said he would not support a legalization bill.
“I do not support legalizing marijuana. I think it’s a mistake,” he said in late 2017. Rauner said that the state should take more time to study the implications of legalization before making any legal alterations.