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Barickman suggests revamping state's cannabis regulation

Brett Levin

Marijuana is too expensive in Illinois, according to Republican state Sen. Jason Barickman of Bloomington, who says he'd support lowering taxes on legal cannabis in the state.

"There are plenty of Illinoisans today who claim they go to other states to buy their cannabis because it is legalized in other states, but it's cheaper. I think this is an area in which we could make significant improvements," said Barickman.

Barickman also said the price of legal pot is so high that it still gives people an incentive to buy from non-authorized sources.

And there are other parts of the original law that could be tweaked. There do not appear to have been significant health or safety consequences from legalization, with Barickman likening marijuana regulation to alcohol.

"I think the purchasing limits are an example of an area where the public clearly wants something different. I think we can look to make an expansion there," he said.

Some lawmakers have suggested the state revisit the administrative structure for cannabis and bring the number of agencies involved from 10 down to one. Barickman said he'd be willing to look at proposals like that, noting the state liquor commission oversees much of the alcohol policy in the state and perhaps a similar approach could work with cannabis.

Substitute teaching

During an interview on WGLT's Sound Ideas, Barickman also said the state should make it easier to find substitute teachers and educators for classes such as mathematics and others where there are shortages. Barickman said the state already has tested ways to temporarily ease limits on the number of days and hours a retired teacher can come back and teach as a sub because the pandemic amplified the teacher shortage.

"Why not make that permanent so schools could plan for next year, not just the year they are in?" said Barickman, adding he's heard from lots of retirees who say they would go back to the classroom to fill in if state rules allowed it.

"A lot of downstate schools and a lot of rural schools need teachers who will come teach and the state has an ability to help with that," he said.

One of the reasons the limits exist is to prevent pension double dipping. Barickman said getting unions, school districts, and lawmakers together is a way to arrive at a solution.

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WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.
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