At a campaign speech this week, Illinois gubernatorial candidate Ameya Pawar announced his intentions to fight institutional racism by legalizing marijuana, releasing nonviolent drug offenders, and eliminating cash bail. The Democratic candidate called the war on drugs a strategy to separate and divide “black and brown families” in a time when an epidemic of crack cocaine use was ravaging lower-income neighborhoods.
In sharp contrast to other politicians' “tough-on-crime” stances, Pawar proposed “ending the war on drugs as we know it,” along with addressing poverty, toughening gun regulations, expanding social treatment programs, and ending mandatory minimum sentences. "Criminal justice reform is the most important element of what will lead to a more just and fair society. That's our vision. That is our charge. That is what government is supposed to do," Pawar said.
Pawar said that, if elected governor, he would not allow the Trump administration to use state or local police to “perpetuate their racist war.” The candidate proposed commuting prison sentences for nonviolent, low-level drug offenders as well as reducing the charge for “minor” drug possession crimes from a felony to a misdemeanor.
Pawar also proposed legalizing and taxing cannabis as a way to end discriminatory drug charges as well as raise additional revenue for the state. Pawar said that cannabis sales tax revenue would raise "hundreds of millions of dollars a year for the state,” some of which he would spend on "addiction treatment and safe injection sites."
The Democratic primary will be held in March, and the winner will go on to challenge incumbent Republican Governor Bruce Rauner in November 2018.