Rick Steves is known throughout America as the guy on PBS who treks across Europe and offers up useful travel tips and tricks. This week, the popular travel guide and author flew to Chicago to offer advice of a totally different kind: Cannabis.
Steves testified on Tuesday before a joint House-Senate committee hearing and urged the Illinois lawmakers to “figure out a better solution” than the current war on drugs.
“When you legalize marijuana, use does not go up, teen use does not go up, crime does not go up, what goes up ix tax revenue, what goes down is the black market,” Steves said. “Seventy thousand people are locked up in our country every year, 700,000 people are arrested, for possession of marijuana, not violent crimes. They’re not rich white guys, they’re poor people and they’re black people. It’s amazing that it’s happening in our country right now and there is just a way out of this.”
Steves is no stranger to this subject. Steves is a longtime supporter of marijuana legalization and was a major campaigner in Washington state’s 2012 measure to make adult recreational cannabis legal. He has also campaigned for legal marijuana in California, Oregon, Maine and Massachusetts. Now he can add Illinois to his marijuana travelogue.
“This is not a pro-pot movement. This is an anti-prohibition movement,” he said. “Marijuana is here to stay.”
State Sen. Dan McConchie, a Republican, challenged Steves on his upbeat message. “Just because you legalize it doesn’t necessitate that all of these problems are going to go away. … I think we would be jumping the gun to legalize this in the absence of robust data.”
Steves agreed that there would be societal repercussions with legalization, but trying to keep it illegal is simply not the answer. People will consume cannabis whether it is legal or not, Steves explained. He also pointed out to Illinois lawmakers that his home state of Washington collects $300 million per year in tax revenue. In Washington, Steves says, “nothing has changed except there’s not people selling marijuana illegally on the streets. They’re selling it in the shops.”
Watch the full press conference here.