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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5533 N. Broadway • Chicago, IL 60640

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Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago) seeks to create a new revenue source for the State of Illinois by legalizing and taxing recreational marijuana. Senate Bill 316 legalizes the possession of up to 28 grams of marijuana and will allow facilities to sell marijuana products.

“Right now, all the money being spent on marijuana is going into the pockets of criminals and cartels,” Steans said. “In a regulated system, the money would go into the cash registers of licensed, taxpaying businesses. It would generate hundreds of millions of dollars per year in new revenue for our state. Prohibition is a financial hole in the ground, and we should stop throwing taxpayer dollars into it.”

Legalizing recreational marijuana has swept the nation. 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.

“It is clear that individuals across the nation are receptive to purchasing marijuana through a legal market,” Steans said. “Legalizing and taxing marijuana will not and should not solve all of our budget woes, but 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.”

Identical legislation has been introduced in the House by Representative Kelly Cassidy.

In 2016, the state of Oregon collected more than $60 million in new revenue from a tax on marijuana – more than six times what the Oregon Liquor Control Commission expected for the 2015-2017 budget period. In Colorado, which legalized marijuana in 2012, the state collected more than $140 million in 2016 from taxes on legal marijuana sales.

Though recreational sales in Colorado began in 2014, according to the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey, marijuana consumption by teens has not increased since recreational marijuana was legalized.

Increasingly, researchers are finding that marijuana can be an effective alternative to opioids for pain management. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, opioids killed more than 33,000 individuals in 2015 alone. In Illinois, 75 percent of drug overdoses in 2015 involved opioids according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

“I believe that we should explore all options to ending the opioid epidemic,” Steans said. “I think that by legalizing marijuana, we could see a drop in opioid overuse.”

Marijuana has also been used to treat patients with chronic pain, cancer, epilepsy and some psychiatric conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder.

Last year, legislation introduced by Senator Steans to decriminalize possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana became law.