Senator Steans on the Senate floorCHICAGO – As hospitals, police departments, judges, counselors and coroners grapple with an unprecedented opioid abuse crisis in Illinois, Gov. Bruce Rauner wants to slash funding for local mental health services and addiction treatment.

That’s counterintuitive and irresponsible, said Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago).

“At a time when thousands of Illinoisans are dying across the state from the opioid epidemic, I do not believe it is prudent for the governor to cut funding for addiction and mental health services,” she said. “The opioid crisis is a serious and multi-faceted problem that requires substantial funding.”

According to an Illinois Department of Public Health report published in December, nearly 2,000 Illinoisans died from an opioid-related overdose in 2016, an 82 percent increase since 2013. More people died from opioids than homicides or car crashes in Illinois, the report stated.

The governor’s budget proposes the following cuts:

•    Community mental health services — $48.4 million
•    Addiction treatment for Medicaid-eligible — $16.1 million
•    Addiction prevention services — $483,000

Steans noted that access to medical marijuana can reduce reliance on opioids and help stem the abuse and overdose epidemic in Illinois. A report from Aclara Research revealed that 67 percent of respondents stopped using opioids after using medical cannabis.

“I believe that expanding access to cannabis could reduce the negative impacts of the opioid epidemic,” Steans said. “I think the governor needs to rethink his budget priorities and his policy stance on this issue.”

Senator Steans at a public health hearing on legalizing adult-use cannabisCHICAGO – Issues of teen use and cannabis public education programs were discussed today at the Senate and House committee hearing on legalizing adult-use cannabis.

The committee also heard testimony on issues with the current medical marijuana program from patients and doctors and discussed the opioid epidemic in Illinois.

State Senator Heather Steans, a Chicago Democrat, is the lead Senate sponsor of a measure to tax and regulate cannabis in Illinois. She chaired today’s hearing.

“I hope that by passing this legislation we will make it more difficult for teens to access marijuana,” Steans said.

“As a mother of young adults, I have studied the effect marijuana can have on developing brains and think we need to do everything in our power to keep it out of their hands. However many teenagers have relatively easy access to marijuana within our current system, proving once again that prohibition doesn’t work. By implementing a tax-and-regulate system, they would need to show an ID to enter the dispensary.”

According to a report published last year from Colorado’s Department of Public Health & Environment, past-month marijuana use among Colorado adolescents is nearly identical to the national average and has remained unchanged. Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a report in 2016 which found that teen use had not significantly changed nationally since legalization.

Legalizing adult-use cannabis not only touches on public health issues, but also affects the criminal justice system and revenue.

“It no longer makes sense to promote antiquated drug policies that disproportionally impact communities of color and at a high cost to taxpayers,” said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.

“Legalizing marijuana is an important step in right-sizing our criminal justice system, reducing racial disparities in drug prosecution and generating much-needed revenue. We cannot afford to let long-standing stereotypes and misinformation prevent us from finding common-sense solutions on behalf of our residents.”

An executive from Chicago-based Aclara Research testified at today’s hearing about the role legalized cannabis could play in battling the opioid addiction epidemic in Illinois. A recent independently financed study by Aclara showed that a significant number of patients stopped using opioids once they tried medical cannabis.

“Because of the limitations of the medical marijuana program, patients are forced into the black market to purchase medicine,” Steans said. “By passing this legislation, we would open the market to patients who are currently not covered under the medical marijuana program that may be turning to opioids.”

Senator Steans

January 9, 2018

Dear Friends,


Senator Steans and Representative Cassidy in a committee hearing

I hope that you and your family had a wonderful holiday season and a very happy New Year.


Robert Reed from the Chicago Tribune recently reached out to me to discuss how legislation that Representative Cassidy and I introduced to legalize adult-use cannabis could spur economic development in Illinois. We talked about business investment interest in this burgeoning field and how employers can maintain a zero-tolerance drug policy in the workplace under our initiative.


We also discussed the New Frontier Data study that estimates that nationally there could be more than 250,000 jobs linked to the cannabis industry by 2020. You can read the full article here.


As many of you may have heard, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced last week that he was rescinding an Obama-era policy that discouraged U.S. attorneys from prosecuting operations in states that legalized marijuana. This change will not diminish our efforts to legalize adult-use cannabis in Illinois.


We will continue to work on this issue in the upcoming legislative session. At a public hearing later this month, experts will testify about the public health effects of legalizing adult-use cannabis.


As always, please do not hesitate to contact my office at 773-769-1717 or reach out online with any questions or concerns.


Heather Steans
Senator Heather Steans
7th District – Illinois


Defending women’s rights


I recently appeared on Chicago Tonight to discuss a new law that protects a woman’s right to choose in Illinois regardless of where she works, how much she makes or what happens at the federal level. Without this legislation, a “trigger” law would have kicked in, banning abortion services in Illinois if Roe v. Wade were overturned.


Shortly after the governor signed House Bill 40 into law, conservative lawmakers and anti-choice groups filed a lawsuit to block its implementation. A judge dismissed their case, but they are appealing.


Click the video below to watch the segment:

Sen. Steans on Chicago Tonight discussing a new law to protect women's rights



Care packages for homeless detainees


My office is working with Representative Cassidy and the Sheriff’s Justice Institute to help homeless detainees by providing them with a care package when they are released from Cook County Jail. We are collecting the following items:

  • New socks for men and women

  • Hats

  • Sample or hotel-sized toiletries

  • Gallon-sized baggies
  • Gift cards

Please drop off donations in the marked box in the lobby of our office at 5533 N. Broadway. We will collect items through mid-January.



District Office

5533 N. Broadway • Chicago, IL 60640

773-769-1717 (Phone) • 773-769-6901 (Fax)


Springfield Office

623 Capitol Building • Springfield, IL 62706

217-782-8492 (Phone)





Senator Steans and Representative Cassidy in a committee hearingThe sponsors of legislation to legalize recreational cannabis for adults in Illinois pushed back against Gov. Bruce Rauner’s opposition based on a supposed lack of data to support legalization.

“The governor’s statement against legalizing recreational adult-use marijuana is shortsighted and uninformed,” Steans said. “States began legalizing recreational marijuana five years ago. That’s five years of data that show that teen use does not increase when it’s legalized.”

State Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago) and State Representative Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago) introduced legislation earlier this year to allow adults in Illinois to possess of up to 28 grams of cannabis and allow facilities to sell cannabis products. The measure includes a number of public safety and public health measures, such as funding for alcohol, tobacco and cannabis abuse prevention programs.

"The mistake here is Governor Rauner not taking the time to familiarize himself with the incredible success states are having with this 'experiment,'” Cassidy said. “The data indicate no increase in teen use, massive reductions in the criminal black market, and the kind of booming economic success he says he wants for Illinois. We are happy to sit down with the governor to discuss this legislation when he is ready to deal in facts, not scare tactics."

According to Colorado’s health department’s report “Monitoring Health Concerns Related to Marijuana in Colorado: 2016,” past-month marijuana use among Colorado adolescents is nearly identical to the national average and has remained unchanged since legalization occurred.

“There are hundreds of thousands of Illinoisans who are already using marijuana recreationally,” Steans said. “We have an opportunity to regulate the product so that it is safe and sold in stores rather than on the streets. It’s time for the governor to realize that this is a public health and public safety measure.”

The sponsors have held several subject matter hearings to gather more information about the potential effects of legalizing cannabis in Illinois and will continue to do so.

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