Cook Commissioner: Legalizing pot could take ‘sting out of it’

By Kevin Beese For Chronicle Media

Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin (standing) talks to residents of Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood during his State of Emergency meeting where he addressed gun violence and other issues. Seated is the Rev. Ira Acree, pastor of Greater St. John Bible Church on the West Side. (Photos by Kevin Beese/For Chronicle Media)

Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin says he is not quite there yet, but admits that he has given serious thought to the possibility of legalizing cannabis in the county.

“We keep on incarcerating people,” Boykin said at a recent gathering of Englewood residents. “I think we have got to look at legalizing marijuana to take the sting out of it.

“It is being sold on our streets. We legalize it and tax it, and it is a revenue source for us. The part that bothers me is what marijuana does to brain cells. I am not there yet (to support legalization).”

Boykin has been going to troubled communities in Chicago with local clergy as part of a State of Emergency Tour. He was at Antioch Baptist Church in Englewood on July 27 hearing residents’ ideas and concerns.

The commissioner has said that the violence plaguing the city will decrease when jobs are provided to residents in struggling communities.

“We need poor people working. We need a summer jobs program,” Boykin said. “The county should have that in place.”

Cynthia Pendleton of Unity in Action, a campaign to bring together people who want to help stop the violence in African-American communities, agrees.

She said her group works to get people full-time jobs, but said a driving economic engine is needed to get things going. Pendleton said that violence in the black community is stifling any economic growth.

“People talk about civil rights and think of the past. Today, it is incumbent upon us to have a civil right movement as well,” Pendleton said. “However, this time the violators are not the men in the white sheet; it’s the people in the black skin.”

She said people “on the other side of town” wouldn’t take inferior schools and crime rampant in the neighborhood. “They are not just going to talk, they are going to act on the other side of town,” Pendleton said of North Siders.

Rev. Ira Acree, pastor of Greater St. John Bible Church on Chicago’s West Side for more than 25 years, said it is tough to be a minister in the black community these days.

“I sometimes sit back and think about how nonsensical it is that I have a mission in my community to stop black folks from killing each other,” Acree said. “It’s really ludicrous, absurd and insane because the truth of the matter is the Bible that I read says that everyone has the right to the tree of life.”



Free subscription to the digital edition of the Cook County Chronicle




— Cook Commissioner: Legalizing pot could take ‘sting out of it’ —