Let me begin by saying that I have long favored the total and complete legalization of marijuana. I see it as a a potentially huge source of public revenue and a way to radically decrease the prison population. Sales revenues could help restore state dollars to the pension fund which has been badly depleted through years of the state neglect. All this, not to mention removing a part of the market fueling international drug wars which have killed hundreds of thousands.
But as legalization becomes a reality in several states, as always, the devil's in the details. In Illinois, the prospect of even partial legalization for medicinal purposes has opened up a new gold rush of venture capitalists, political cronies, profiteers and other assorted quick-buck hustlers.
Today's Sun-Times reports that attorney Jon Loevy hopes to get his plan approved to open a marijuana farm downstate. Loevy pitch is that he's different that the other dope privateers in that he's getting into the business, not to make a buck, but to support education.... Sorry, it took me a minute to stop laughing and climb back onto my chair.
“Illinois has created a real opportunity for profits, and a lot of the groups chasing this are hedge funds and private equity firms trying to get rich,” Loevy said. “We see this as an opportunity to reroute millions of dollars to education in Illinois when it’s really needed.”By supporting education, Loevy means that instead of paying taxes, he may funnel a chunk of his tax-exempt profits into the state's networks of privately-run charter schools which he claims will, "improve educational quality.”
Loevy’s partners include Michael Kanovitz, Loevy’s partner at the Loevy & Loevy law firm, and Rich Silverstein, a real estate developer. Following the lead of the privatized prison industry, they plan to open a $5 million to $7 million, 20,000-square-foot medical marijuana farm in Edgewood, a town of just over 400 people in Effingham County.
A trustee in Edgewood, Ervin Yocum, said the town is looking at the proposal as if it were a regular business. “We need the jobs down here,” said Yocum, who owns the plot of land the cultivation center would be on and would sell it to the group if they get the state license. “It’s a medicine.”Yes, it's a medicine and will ultimately be part of big pharma. But the thought of public schools, or even privately-run charters, being dependent for funding on the good will and political orientation of drug privateers is antithetical to democratic education.
If Loevy and his investors are allowed to grow marijuana in Edgewood, there needs to be strict control over conditions and pay for labor on their farm and their profits should be taxed appropriately with funding for education and other public needs being directed by public decision making.