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.”