Advocates testify on potential economic impact of legalizing marijuana  

Senator Steans and Rep. Cassidy at a press conference with Rick StevesIllinois could see up to $699 million in new revenue by legalizing cannabis use among adults through a measure that would spur economic development while protecting public safety. Lawmakers heard from advocates today during a combined Senate and House hearing.

Among those testifying was nationally-known travel writer and television host Rick Steves, an active proponent for ending America’s prohibition of marijuana.

“I’m not pro-drugs – I’m pro-civil liberties and anti-prohibition,” Steves said. “Marijuana is here to stay. We can either keep building more prisons or figure out a better solution. I think it’s obvious what the solution is, and it’s happening around the country as it did in my home state of Washington. We need to legalize the responsible use of marijuana by adults.”

“It is clear that prohibition doesn’t work and that by lifting cannabis restrictions we can encourage economic development in Illinois,” State Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago) said. “We are carefully considering all aspects and potential impacts of legalizing adult-use cannabis, including job growth.”

In addition to increased tax revenue, legalized cannabis could provide a boost for job growth in Illinois. According to a report from New Frontier Data earlier this year, the legal marijuana market could create more than 250,000 jobs in the U.S. by 2020. Legalizing adult-use marijuana creates a variety of jobs including scientists, dispensary employees, growers, among others.

“Legalizing cannabis will spur the creation of new small businesses and much-needed jobs,” State Representative Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago) said. “We are leaving hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity on the table by continuing the outdated status quo of prohibition.”
Tax revenue from the proposed legislation would support the State Board of Education; treatment and education programs for responsible marijuana, alcohol and tobacco use; and the state’s General Revenue Fund.

“In Washington, we have a track record and we know it works,” Steves said. “States like mine that have legalized marijuana have learned that use doesn't go up, crime doesn't go up, DUIs do not go up. The only thing that goes up is tax revenue, as we take the thriving illicit market and transform it into a highly regulated and highly taxed system.”

Today’s hearing was part of a series of hearings on the various aspects of legalizing cannabis use among adults. Changes to the legislation may be proposed in the new year based on these findings.

Senator Steans in a committee hearingAs the movement to legalize recreational marijuana gains popularity in Illinois, State Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago) and State Representative Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago) heard testimony addressing best practices for regulation and taxation on Wednesday, April 19 from experts around the country. This hearing was the first in a series that will address the wide variety of concerns regarding their legislation that would allow Illinois residents to possess up to 28 grams of marijuana and purchase marijuana products at licensed and regulated facilities.

“The numbers speak for themselves,” Steans said. “Taxing legalized recreational marijuana would have a huge impact on the state both in the form of new revenue and in job creation. Last year alone, 18,000 jobs were created in Colorado due to the marijuana industry.”  

Karmen Hanson from the National Conference of State Legislatures explained the process of implementing a tax structure and regulations in states that have already legalized recreational marijuana during her testimony. In the past year, Colorado has received nearly $200 million in revenue from the tax generated through over $1 billion in marijuana sales.

“Hearing about the experiences of policymakers who worked through the issues that appeared during the process of legalizing marijuana in other states will help us create a plan that will proactively address these concerns,” Cassidy said. “Our state desperately needs the revenue that would be brought in by the taxation of cannabis, so I look forward to continuing the conversation in the coming months.”

The legislation will include a number of public safety and regulatory measures. Driving under the influence of marijuana would remain illegal, and strict rules would ensure marijuana products would not be accessible to people under 21. Smoking marijuana in public would also be prohibited.

“Colorado takes its responsibility to regulate marijuana very seriously,” Barbara Brohl, the executive director of the Colorado Department of Revenue said. “Tax revenue and license fees fund our regulatory costs as well as allows the state to address some social consequences of use that otherwise might be difficult to address. We remain proactive in our regulatory approach, and work very closely with all of our stakeholders to carefully balance public safety and burden on the industry, which ensures that as issues arise we can address them quickly and flexibly.”

The sponsors plan to hold additional subject matter hearings throughout the spring to hear from other individuals and organizations.

Senator Steans

April 13, 2017

Dear Friends,

 

Legalizing recreational marijuana would be a big policy change in the state. I know many of you have feelings and opinions about this legislation, and as your state senator, it is important to me to hear your feedback on this legislation.

 

Please join me and State Representative Kelly Cassidy for a town hall to discuss legalizing recreational marijuana at 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 19, at the Broadway Armory Park, 5917 N. Broadway. The event is free and open to the public. If you are able to attend, please RSVP here.

 

I do not plan to move forward with this bill hastily. Representative Cassidy and I want to ensure that there is ample time for organizations and individuals to voice their opinions and for us to adjust the legislation based on that information.

 

If you can’t make it on Wednesday, join us from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Sunday, April 23, at the Rogers Park Social Club, 6920 N. Glenwood Ave., for a Meet and Greet. Representative Cassidy and I will be available to update you on legislation and the current state of affairs in Illinois. To RSVP for the Meet and Greet, click here.

 

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

 

Sincerely,
Heather Steans
Senator Heather Steans
7th District – Illinois

 

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Senator Steans

March 28, 2017

Dear Friends,

 

I believe that Illinois needs a new approach to marijuana; prohibition is not working. This past week Representative Kelly Cassidy and I introduced legislation in the Senate and House to legalize recreational marijuana for individuals over the age of 21. Senate Bill 316 legalizes the possession of up to 28 grams of marijuana and will allow facilities to sell marijuana products.

 

Senator Steans on the Senate floorIn a regulated system, recreational marijuana would generate hundreds of millions of dollars in new revenue for the state and support licensed businesses. This new revenue is crucial given Illinois’s current fiscal crisis and the governor’s proposed budget that includes a $5 billion funding gap. Prohibition is a financial hole in the ground, and I believe that we should stop throwing taxpayer dollars into it. While I do not believe that legalizing and taxing marijuana will or should solve all of our budget woes, it should be a part of the conversation about resolving Illinois’ worsening budget problems. Every bit of new revenue will help to close the governor’s $5 billion budget gap.

 

Excess revenue from the sale of recreational marijuana will go toward supporting the State Board of Education, voluntary prevention or treatment programs for alcohol, tobacco and marijuana use, an accurate public education campaign for youth and adults about the health and safety risks of alcohol, tobacco and marijuana, and the state’s General Revenue Fund.

 

It is clear that individuals across the nation are receptive to purchasing marijuana through a legal market. During this past election, voters from coast to coast passed ballot initiatives to legalize its use, making recreational marijuana now legal in eight states and Washington, D.C. Earlier this week the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute released polling results that show that 66 percent of Illinoisans support legalizing marijuana.

 

I also introduced this legislation because studies are increasingly finding that marijuana can be an effective alternative to opioids for pain management. While opioids killed more than 33,000 individuals in the United States in 2015 alone, I believe that we should explore all options to end the epidemic.

 

I know that there are some concerns that by legalizing marijuana, there will be increased drug use among teens and children. However, recreational marijuana sales began in Colorado in 2014 and since then the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey has found that marijuana consumption by teens has not increased.

 

I have done extensive research on how other states have implemented new recreational marijuana programs and included elements in the bill to promote public safety. SB 316 will require the Department of Public Health to develop rules for marijuana establishments and home growers including security, training requirements, labeling standards and child resistant packaging. Under this legislation, driving under the influence of marijuana will remain prohibited.

 

I am excited to bring this issue before my colleagues in the Senate and look forward to a robust conversation about how we can open up new economic markets in Illinois by legalizing recreational marijuana.

 

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

 

Sincerely,
Heather Steans
Senator Heather Steans
7th District – Illinois

 

 

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