SPRINGFIELD – Lawmakers sponsoring legislation to legalize adult-use cannabis in Illinois released part two of a market study today, this time focusing on policy recommendations and best practices for a prospective legal market.

The study, commissioned by State Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago) and State Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago), makes recommendations about a prospective legal cannabis system in Illinois, suggests policy alternatives, advises on practices to be avoided and highlights regulatory goals.

It also highlighted the need for Illinois to articulate clearly what should be expected upon legalization and provide the groundwork for the governing body that will oversee the industry.

“It is important that we work together to establish a functional adult-use cannabis market,” said State Rep. Kelly Cassidy, the legislation’s House sponsor. “We’re crafting a governing body, establishing a timeline that works for everyone, and encouraging inter-agency cooperation to ensure that everyone is at the table.”

The study points out that the goal of any legal system should be to provide safe, regulated, consistent cannabis to consumers, while making restorative justice principles a priority, displacing illegal markets, decreasing problems related to substance abuse and maintaining public safety.

“It is important that the policy changes we enact reflect the needs of the people who have been unfairly incarcerated over the years,” said State Senator Toi Hutchinson (D-Chicago Heights). “If we are going to move in a positive direction, it is absolutely vital that we learn from our past and do our best to try and remedy the lingering effects our antiquated and harmful policies have had on neighborhoods and communities across the state.”

The study, performed by the consulting firm Freedman & Koski, noted that public policy requirements in laws and regulations can have an impact on attaining the right number and type of licensees capable of producing an adequate amount of cannabis in a cost effective, safe, and timely manner.

“One of our primary goals with creating a legal adult-use cannabis market is to begin righting the wrongs caused by prohibition,” Steans said. “Prohibition does not work. By legalizing adult-use cannabis, we hope to bring existing sales out of the illicit market, providing people with a safe, regulated product.”

The first part of the study, which was released earlier this month, showed that the demand from Illinois consumers would exceed what the state’s existing licensed growers could supply.

The first part of the study can be viewed here: Illinois_WP_DemSnap_022419.pdf.

The second part can be viewed here: 20190311_Illinois_WP_part2_Final.pdf

Senator Steans on the Senate floorCHICAGO – As hospitals, police departments, judges, counselors and coroners grapple with an unprecedented opioid abuse crisis in Illinois, Gov. Bruce Rauner wants to slash funding for local mental health services and addiction treatment.

That’s counterintuitive and irresponsible, said Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago).

“At a time when thousands of Illinoisans are dying across the state from the opioid epidemic, I do not believe it is prudent for the governor to cut funding for addiction and mental health services,” she said. “The opioid crisis is a serious and multi-faceted problem that requires substantial funding.”

According to an Illinois Department of Public Health report published in December, nearly 2,000 Illinoisans died from an opioid-related overdose in 2016, an 82 percent increase since 2013. More people died from opioids than homicides or car crashes in Illinois, the report stated.

The governor’s budget proposes the following cuts:

•    Community mental health services — $48.4 million
•    Addiction treatment for Medicaid-eligible — $16.1 million
•    Addiction prevention services — $483,000

Steans noted that access to medical marijuana can reduce reliance on opioids and help stem the abuse and overdose epidemic in Illinois. A report from Aclara Research revealed that 67 percent of respondents stopped using opioids after using medical cannabis.

“I believe that expanding access to cannabis could reduce the negative impacts of the opioid epidemic,” Steans said. “I think the governor needs to rethink his budget priorities and his policy stance on this issue.”

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.”

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