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.

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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