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.