By Diane S.W. Lee Illinois Statehouse News
SPRINGFIELD — In the waning days of the 96th General Assembly, House lawmakers snuffed out legislation to outlaw blunt wraps.
The House voted 42-69 rejecting legislation to ban “blunt wraps,” individual cigar wrappers used to roll tobacco. Senate Bill 1014 passed the Senate without opposition last year, but faced fierce opposition from several House lawmakers this month.
Dubbed “blunt wraps,” the product is made of reconstituted tobacco or flavored tobacco like apple martini, watermelon and wild honey. Some lawmakers insisted the product is often used for illegal purposes and wanted to classify blunt wraps as drug paraphernalia.
House sponsor and Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie, a Democrat from Chicago, said people can disguise the smell of marijuana by rolling their own cigarettes in blunt wraps.
“This bill defines something that is clearly drug paraphernalia,” Currie said. “You only buy it if you want to smoke a joint.”
But Rep. Dan Brady, a Republican from Bloomington, didn’t agree.
Even with a blunt wraps ban, marijuana users can still find ways to be innovative.
“This product in no way is used for only wrapping marijuana,” said Rep. Monique Davis, a Democrat from Chicago. “Pipes are used for smoking marijuana. Are we going to prohibit the sale of pipes, because some people choose to use them improperly?”
“Bishop (Larry D.) Trotter was here to explain to us what kind of scourge this is on the streets of our urban America,” Currie said. “Let us join Canada. Let us join New York City. Let us join Boston, in recognizing the scourge that blunt wraps are. Let us say ‘no’ to this public health hazard.”
Representatives Brady, Davis and Michael Tryon saw the legislation as a way for one tobacco company to eliminate the competition.
“I voted to get this out of committee, but as I look at this issue it truly is an issue of one tobacco company pitting itself against another tobacco company to gain a competitive edge,” said Tryon, a Republican from Crystal Lake.
Rep. Jim Sacia, a Republican from Pecatonica, said the legislation is part of a dispute between Chicago-based Republic Tobacco and Kentucky-based National Tobacco Co.
While the state struggles with a nearly $15 billion budget deficit and a mounting backlog of unpaid bills, House lawmakers saw the legislation as a waste of time.
“Ladies and gentlemen, if there ever was a turkey on this floor, this bill is an absolute turkey!” shouted Sacia, a former FBI agent. “…I know you’ll eat me alive leader Currie, but this bill is an absolute joke. …And it would be a great courtesy to both sides of the aisle to pull this turkey out of the record.”
Legislation to ban blunt wraps died with the adjournment of the House.
House lawmakers, meanwhile, rejected a plan to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes after it failed to garner enough votes to pass.