Feedback from community groups, advocacy organizations, public safety officers, medical professionals and the public will be pivotal in shaping efforts to legalize recreational marijuana in Illinois. At a press conference today, State Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago) and State Representative Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago) announced plans to hold the first subject matter hearing on the topic at 12 p.m. Wednesday, April 19, in the Bilandic building.
“Rep. Cassidy and I are committed to gathering feedback about how legalizing recreational marijuana would affect the state from a large variety of interest groups,” Steans said. “We have received overwhelming support for this legislation but do not plan to move forward hastily. We want to ensure that there is ample time for organizations and individuals to present testimony and for us to adjust the legislation based on information presented in hearings.”
Barbara Brohl, the executive director of Colorado’s Department of Revenue will testify on how legalizing recreational marijuana has affected Colorado during the first hearing on this subject. Karmen Hanson, the program director of the Health Program at the National Conference of State Legislatures, will also testify on what other states have done around legalizing marijuana.
“Senator Steans and I strongly believe that it’s time that Illinois had a new drug policy,” Cassidy said. “Legalizing recreational marijuana will bring in hundreds of millions of dollars to the state. We’re discussing all sorts of proposals to end the budget impasse, and we thought this should be part of the conversation as well.”
The Marijuana Policy Project, an advocacy organization devoted to ending marijuana prohibition, has estimated that legalizing recreational marijuana would generate between $350 million and $700 million in new revenue for the state of Illinois. Under the Steans-Cassidy proposals, the revenue would go to support the State Board of Education; treatment and education programs about marijuana, alcohol and tobacco; and the state’s General Revenue Fund.
Currently, six groups and organizations have come out in support of the legislation due to the fiscal impact it would have on the state and their belief that Illinois needs a new drug policy.
“It is time for Illinois to regulate marijuana similarly to alcohol,” said Chris Lindsey, a spokesperson for the Coalition for a Safer Illinois, a newly formed alliance of doctors, law enforcement, clergy and other organizations committed to updating marijuana legislation in Illinois. “Our current policy causes more harm to the individual and society than cannabis consumption, and a majority of Illinois voters are ready for a better approach. We believe these bills are exactly what Illinois needs.”
The two legislators will also seek feedback from residents at a town hall meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 19, in their district.