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If a group of state lawmakers have their way, Illinois will become the eighth state in the United States to legalize recreational marijuana. State Senator Heather Steans joined State Rep. Kelly Cassidy to propose the bill in Springfield on Wednesday. Illinois has just begun getting medical marijuana grown and distributed to patients, and the possibility of recreational use has excited growers and activists. Recreational and medical use of the drug are still illegal on the federal level, and states may face crackdowns under the new Trump administration.
But Illinois lawmakers are forging ahead, arguing that legalization could help reduce crime and raise revenue at a time when the state is in dire financial straits.
Morning Shift talks to State Senator Heather Steans about the proposed bill and answers listeners’ questions about marijuana in Illinois.
Tuesday, 29 December 2015
#1 Congress Reauthorizes Medical Marijuana Protections
Members of Congress approved language in the fiscal year 2016 omnibus spending bill that continues to limit the federal government from taking punitive action against state-licensed individuals or operations that are acting are in full compliance with the medical marijuana laws of their states. The provisions reauthorize Section 538 of the Continuing Appropriations Act of 2015, which states, “None of the funds made available in this act to the Department of Justice may be used … to prevent … states … from implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.” Read the full story at: http://norml.org/news/2015/12/17/congress-omnibus-spending-bill-reauthorizes-medical-marijuana-protections.
#2 Federal Judge Upholds Marijuana’s Schedule I Status
A federal judge in April rejected a motion challenging the constitutionality of cannabis’ classification as a Schedule I prohibited substance. “At some point in time, a court may decide this status to be unconstitutional,” Judge Kimberly Mueller said from the bench. “But this is not the court and not the time.” Judge Meuller had presided over five days of hearings in October 2014 in a challenge brought by members of the NORML Legal Committee. Read the full story at: http://norml.org/news/2015/04/16/federal-judge-upholds-marijuana-s-schedule-i-status.
#3 Medical Cannabis Access Associated With Less Opioid Abuse
States that permit qualified patients to access medical marijuana via dispensaries possess lower rates of opioid addiction and overdose deaths, according to a study published in July by the National Bureau of Economic Research, a non-partisan think-tank. The findings mirror those published in 2014 in The Journal of the American Medical Association concluding, “States with medical cannabis laws had a 24.8 percent lower mean annual opioid overdose mortality rate compared with states without medical cannabis laws.” Read the full story at: http://norml.org/news/2015/07/16/study-medical-cannabis-access-associated-with-reduced-opioid-abuse.
#4 DC Depenalizes Marijuana; Arrests Plummet
Despite threats from members of Congress, District officials implemented voter-approved legislation earlier this year eliminating penalties associated with the possession and cultivation of personal use quantities of marijuana by adults. Following the law’s implementation, marijuana-related arrests in the nation’s capital fell 99 percent. Read the full story at: http://norml.org/news/2015/12/04/cities-see-major-decline-in-marijuana-possession-arrests.
#5 Marijuana Law Changes Don’t Change Youth Use, Attitudes
Rates of youth marijuana use are unaffected by changing laws, according to data published in July in The American Journal of drug and Alcohol Abuse. Investigators evaluated trends in young people’s attitudes toward cannabis and their use of the substance during the years 2002 to 2013 – a time period where 14 states enacted laws legalizing the medical use of the plant, and two states approved its recreational use by adults. “Our results may suggest that recent changes in public policy, including the decriminalization, medicalization, and legalization of marijuana in cities and states across the country, have not resulted in more use or greater approval of marijuana use among younger adolescents,” researchers reported. Read the full story at: http://norml.org/news/2015/07/16/study-changes-in-state-marijuana-laws-are-not-associated-with-greater-use-or-acceptance-by-young-people.
#6 Gallup Poll: More Americans Than Ever Say Marijuana Should Be Legal
Fifty-eight percent of Americans believe that “the use of marijuana should be made legal,” according to nationwide survey data released in October by Gallup pollsters. The percentage ties the highest level of support ever reported by Gallup, which has been measuring Americans’ attitudes toward cannabis since the late 1960s. The percentage is more than twice the level of support reported in the mid-1990s. Read the full story at: http://norml.org/news/2015/10/22/gallup-support-for-legalizing-marijuana-at-historic-high-2.
#7 Study: Marijuana Use Not Associated With Changes In Brain Morphology
Marijuana use is not associated with structural changes in the brain, according to imaging data published in January in The Journal of Neuroscience. Investigators assessed brain morphology in both daily adult and adolescent cannabis users compared to non-users. They found “no statistically significant differences … between daily users and nonusers on volume or shape in the regions of interest” after researchers controlled for participants’ use of alcohol. “[T]he results indicate that, when carefully controlling for alcohol use, gender, age, and other variables, there is no association between marijuana use and standard volumetric or shape measurements of subcortical structures,” researchers reported. Read the full story at: http://norml.org/news/2015/02/19/study-marijuana-use-not-associated-with-previously-reported-changes-in-brain-morphology.
#8 Marijuana Consumers Less Likely To Be Obese, Suffer Diabetes Risk
Those who consume cannabis are 50 percent less likely to suffer from metabolic syndrome as compared to those who do not, according to findings published in November in The American Journal of Medicine. Metabolic syndrome is a group of risk factors, including high blood pressure, high blood sugar, unhealthy cholesterol levels, and abdominal fat, which are linked to increased risk of heart disease and adult onset diabetes, among other serious health consequences. The findings are similar to those of previous studies reporting that those who use cannabis are less likely to be obese or suffer from diabetes. Read the full story at: http://norml.org/news/2015/11/19/study-marijuana-consumers-less-likely-to-suffer-from-metabolic-syndrome.
#9 NHTSA: THC-Positive Drivers Don’t Possesses Elevated Crash Risk
Drivers who test positive for the presence of THC in their blood are no more likely to be involved in motor vehicle crashes than are drug-free drivers, according to a case-control study released in February by the United States National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration. Authors reported that drivers who tested positive for the presence of THC possessed an unadjusted, elevated risk of accident of 25 percent (Odds Ratio=1.25) compared to controls (drivers who tested negative for any drug or alcohol). However, this elevated risk became insignificant (OR=1.05) after investigators adjusted for demographic variables, such as the drivers’ age and gender. The study is the largest of its kind ever conducted in the United States. Read the full story at: http://norml.org/news/2015/02/12/feds-thc-positive-drivers-no-more-likely-to-be-involved-in-motor-vehicle-crashes.
#10 Legal Marijuana States Collect Over $200 Million In New Tax Revenue
Taxes on the legal production and sale of cannabis in the states of Colorado and Washington have yielded over $200 million in new revenue since going into effect in 2014, according to calculations reported by The Huffington Post in September. Colorado collected more than $117 million dollars from marijuana sales while Washington collected over $83 million. Cannabis sales commenced in Oregon in on October 1, 2015 and have yet to begin in Alaska. Read the full story at: http://norml.org/news/2015/09/03/legal-marijuana-states-collect-over-200-million-in-new-tax-revenue.
ri, 09/05/2014 – 1:14pm
More than 2,000 people registered for Illinois medical marijuana identification cards in the first three days of applications, dwarfing the number the program’s administrators had envisioned, the state announced Friday.
Authorities began taking electronic applications Tuesday from patients whose last names start with letters A through L, with those people able to register through Oct. 31. Officials had expected just a few hundred applications in the opening days, the Illinois Department of Public Health said without specifying the number of applicants.
“This is a promising sign that the program is on track to fulfill its key purpose — alleviating the pain and suffering for thousands of Illinoisans,” said Bob Morgan, the chief of the state’s medical cannabis pilot program.
Others can apply in November and December, and any patients and caregivers can apply starting next year. Patients must have a written certification from a doctor and get a background check, then pay $100 a year to apply for a medical marijuana card. Disabled people and veterans will pay $50 annually.
Melaney Arnold, a spokeswoman for the state health department, said that while the registrations in the application period’s infancy are “obviously higher” than forecast, “it’s not something we can’t handle.”
“The system is working well,” she said, noting that demand for the program should become clearer in about a month. “It’s always difficult to speculate and estimate how many are going to apply. Hundreds of thousands (of Illinoisans) are eligible for medical cannabis cards with debilitating conditions.”
A state law enacted last year authorized a four-year pilot project that will expire in 2017, but so far, not a single marijuana seed has been planted. State officials have said the first products may be sold next year. The state will begin to accept applications on Monday from aspiring cultivation centers and dispensaries vying for one of a limited number of permits.
When the harvest begins, patients will be able to buy up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana in a two-week period from a state-authorized dispensary. They must be diagnosed with one of the qualifying medical conditions listed in the Illinois law. Those conditions include cancer, glaucoma, HIV, hepatitis C and dozens of other health problems.
— Associated Press
By Alex Hirsch
Just as Illinois residents, politicians and law enforcement officials begin to prepare for the implementation of medical marijuana; new reports have surfaced regarding the possibility of decriminalized recreational use of cannabis in the near future.
John Fritchey, Commissioner of Cook County – America’s second most populous county – has requested that his state take a deeper look into the realistic possibility of legalizing or at the least decriminalizing cannabis.
“The Illinois Legislature should follow the successful lead of other states and start taking meaningful steps toward a workable framework to allow the responsible sale and use of cannabis,” Fritchey said in a statement.
Commissioner Fritchey was joined by other Illinois lawmakers who see the current system as broken, archaic and racially biased. It’s a known fact that despite cannabis usage as fairly equal amongst different races, minorities have historically been the primary target of drug arrests and prosecution.
According to a 2011 story by the Chicago Reader, blacks were arrested 15 times more often than whites for possession of marijuana. Moreover, by the time those cases go through the justice system the rate of conviction is 40 times higher for blacks than whites.
But the apparent racial disparity may not be the true reason why Illinois is mulling legalization. According to a January 2014 report by the nonprofit organization group State Budget Solutions, Illinois had a state debt of over $321 billion. On top of that, the ACLU reports that Illinois spent nearly $221 million fighting cannabis in 2011 alone.
This spending doesn’t necessarily take into account the costs of corruption as well. Just last month five police officers from Chicago and the north suburban community of Glenview were accused of lying on the witness stand during the trial of a 23-year-old suspected of trafficking marijuana. His case has since been thrown out along with dozens of other pending cases by the officers.
Although full legalization may still be a few years away, three bills aimed at decriminalizing cannabis are currently in the Illinois House of Representatives waiting to move forward.
A second bill, sponsored by Rep. Christian Mitchell (D-Chicago) is similar to Cassidy’s bill, but it also lowers the penalties for possessing marijuana plants. HB 4299 would make it a possession a petty offense with a fine of up to $100.
A third and final bill, HB 4091, proposed by Rep. Michael Zalewski (D-Chicago) would result in a ticket for marijuana possession. Possession of marijuana would still be considered a criminal offense under his bill. Additionally, possessing a large amount of marijuana near a school would become a class X felony and would be punishable by up to 30 years in prison and a fine of $200,000.
It’s extremely unlikely any vote on legalization would come in 2014 so most progressive lawmakers and citizens can set their hopes on 2016 as the year marijuana prohibition will end in Illinois.
Is your state proposing decriminalization or legalization? Tell us in the comments below.
The answer came back loud and clear, it is time.
That was the message from a cohort of elected officials at a press conference Monday in downtown Chicago that called for the legalization of recreational Marijuana in Illinois.
“The main difference between the War on Drugs and Prohibition is that, after 40 yrs, this country still has not acknowledged that the War on Drugs is a failure,” said Cook County Commissioner John Fritchey.
In what’s perhaps the strongest show of support yet for legalizing recreational Marijuana in Illinois, Mr. Fritchey was joined by State Representatives Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago), Christian Mitchell (D-Chicago) and Mike Zalewski (D-Riverside) in calling for a task force to address all aspects of legalizing recreational Marijuana.
“We can find a way to do this and look at what other states have done, and cherry pick the good ideas, dismiss the bad ideas and find a workable policy that recognizes what we’re doing now simply is not right,” Mr. Fritchey said.
Facing an empty state treasury, and a losing War on Drugs, some elected officials are seeing Marijuana as a lucrative option to boost tax revenue. In Colorado, where recreational Marijuana was recently legalized, the state netted roughly $2-M in tax revenue from licensed dispensaries during the 1st month of sales alone.
Illinois is still in the midst of crafting rules for its medical Marijuana pilot program, set to become the strictest in the nation.
Mr. Fritchey and others acknowledged the statewide legalization of Marijuana for recreational use is a ways off, but believe decriminalization is the 1st step.
Beyond tax revenue, Mr. Fritchey said decriminalization could soothe other issues, like the racial disparity in drug enforcement efforts and arrests.
“You see people getting swept off the streets on a daily basis on the South Side and the West Side,” Mr. Fritchey said, referencing predominantly Black and Latino areas of Chicago. “You do not see kids getting arrested in Lincoln Park.”
The pro-legalization lawmakers are not without their opponents, including the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police. At the conference, the group said legalizing recreational weed could be particularly dangerous for teens and motorists who may drive under the influence.
“The sky will not fall when Marijuana is decriminalized, and public opinion moves faster than legislators’. Look for Illinois to move immediately to decriminalize Marijuana as its 1st step toward legalizing recreational use of Marijuana.
On December 10th the National Law Review
published an article written by Vedder Price in which
they give some clarification of the Illinois Medical
On august 1, 2013 Governor Pat Quinn signed the
“Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot
One of the most disturbing provisions to me is the
fact that a patient CANNOT grow their own medicine.
It must be dispensed (and paid for) at a legally
However, one good thing that is included in the
“Act” was in regards to an employment related
issue. Under the “Act” it would be unlawful to
discriminate against an employee or applicant based
upon their medical cannabis use, provided is legally
prescribed and obtained.
It would seem that legalization has opened up doors
in all commerce ventures across the country and
worldwide. The problem is the legalization itself has
opened up a whole new door for criminalization.
As the product of “Cannabis” is patented, grown,
produced, sold and exchanged over the stock
market all around the world, the doors of the new
prisons will be opening for those of us who might
not choose to abide by their “growing standards”.
Each state law is markedly different and continuously
changing amid the stress of a newly marketed item.
But the bottom line is legalization equals regulation
and taxation which we are seeing now amid the
hustle and bustle of the “legalizing states”.
There will indeed be much money to be made.
Jobs will be created. People will have access to
Cannabis – IF deemed necessary by thier doctor,
and the “law”.
Just like the opiate wars which we are living in every
day, which would include all Pharmaceutical Opiates
which are marketed through Pharmacy’s and
regulated by law therefore creating a black market
for them by law of supply and demand (via
addiction), so will the war on Cannabis continue,
long after it is “legal”. The only difference is that the
Cannabis is not addictive like other opiates and that
is and will continue to be the saving factor in this
rude scenario of “legalization”.
Below are some links of information on the legalization process.