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.

Senator Steans defends legislation on the Senate floor

SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Heather Steans, a Chicago Democrat, issued the following statement on the lawsuit filed today by anti-choice groups to block House Bill 40, which protects women’s reproductive rights in Illinois and was signed into law earlier this year:

“This lawsuit is a blatant attempt to prevent poor women and state employees from exercising their legal right to choose. I firmly believe that all women should have the opportunity to make their own reproductive decisions regardless of their income level or employer. These choices should not be limited to the wealthy.”

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.

A bipartisan group of female state senators announced the creation of the Women’s Caucus today at a press conference in Springfield.

“We’ve seen throughout history that when women mobilize and claim their seat at the table, they break barriers and find solutions to the most stubborn of problems,” said Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago). “I expect this caucus will do the same for the women of Illinois.”

The caucus is being formed to promote and advance women’s issues within the legislature and to support female senators from both political parties.

“Women’s issues transcend party lines and extend far beyond the confines of a legislative chamber,” said Senator Karen McConnaughay (R-St. Charles). “I pledge to work with Democrat and Republican women who serve in the Senate to advance legislation that support, empower and protect women of all ages and in all environments.”

Although sexual harassment in the workplace will continue to be an issue of focus for the caucus, the group hopes to become the leading voice on a range of issues facing women in Illinois. It also intends to offer support for women within the workplace, institutions of education and home.

“The Women’s Caucus brings together a diverse group of legislators from across the political spectrum,” State Senator Toi Hutchinson (D-Chicago Heights) said. “We recognize the importance of being bipartisan so that Senate leadership will respect our efforts. We intend to be taken seriously.”

“Women in the Senate have worked well together for years,” said Senator Pamela Althoff (R-McHenry). “This newly formed caucus just takes us a step further to ensure that we are creating a voice for the women of this state and that we are dealing with the issues that impact them.”

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