On Tuesday, travel guru Rick Steves visited Illinois to advocate for legislation to make marijuana legal for adults and regulate it similarly to alcohol. Steves joined Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Heather Steans (D-Chicago) and House Committee on Public Safety and Appropriations Chairwoman Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago) for a news conference to discuss why Illinois lawmakers should support regulating and taxing marijuana. Immediately following the press conference, Steves testified in front of a joint hearing of the Illinois General Assembly.
From CBS Chicago:
“What we need to do is take that black market down and turn it into a highly regulated, highly taxed legal market so that we can gain credibility and focus on the real risk to young people in our society which is hard drug abuse,” Steves said.
Steves said prohibition does not work. He said this is not about being pro-pot. He knows it can be dangerous, but said it’s time to stop making it criminal.
His travels in Europe opened his eyes.
He also studied the effects legalization has had on Colorado and his home state of Washington. He said more people are not using it.
State Senators Kelly Cassidy and Heather Steans are the lead sponsors of the bill to regulate cannabis. They estimate legalization could generate up to $700 million for the state every year.
“It would enable individuals to buy and possess up to 28 grams or grow five plants, just for adult use,” Steans said.
Illinois Rep. Kelly Cassidy’s bill to reduce penalties for possessing a personal amount of marijuana reached a critical milestone today when it passed the House of Representatives in a 62-53 vote. The bill now moves to the Senate.
If you are an Illinois resident, please help keep up the momentum and ask your senator to vote in support of HB 218 today. Let them know it’s time to reduce the penalty for simple possession of marijuana to a reasonable fine, not life-altering criminal penalties and possible jail time.
Statements offered by nearly a dozen legislators on the floor spoke to the widespread support for the bill’s goals of bringing consistency and fairness to possession laws across Illinois — and in making sure law enforcement focuses on serious crime.
According to DNAinfo Chicago, the percentage of people fined for the possession of marijuana in Chicago has greatly increased over the past year. However, an activist group is questioning why more than 60 percent of those found in possession of marijuana are still arrested.
The national coordinator for Black Youth Project 100, Charlene Carruthers, says that Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy “has said over and over again we should be ticketing, not arresting, but it still happens.”
Yesterday at Chicago City Hall, Carruthers cited figures demonstrating that the city spends $80 million a year processing marijuana arrests, despite the fact that both McCarthy and Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s proclaimed reforms intended to replace marijuana arrests with revenue-producing ticket citations.
Additionally, building on reports published in the Chicago Reader, Roosevelt University issued a study earlier this year demonstrating that arrest rates were too high and that Chicago was among the areas not making sufficient use of the reform legislation.
Carruthers stated that those arrested rather than ticketed were “primarily black Chicagoans,” adding, “It’s absolutely an unjust and racially biased policy…and it doesn’t keep us safer.”
The racial disparity demonstrated in marijuana arrest rates drove Carruthers to push for a meeting with McCarthy. McCarthy has yet to respond.
The three departments that oversee the Illinois medical cannabis program posted several important documents online on Friday, including cannabis patient applications, which are available here.
Additional forms were also made available, including documents for physicians to use for recommendations, fingerprint consent forms, caregiver applications, frequently asked questions, and preliminary versions of applications for both dispensaries and cultivation centers. All those documents and other information are available here.
While they are available now, the department will not accept patient applications until later this year. Applicants whose last names begin with the letters A through L may apply between September 2 and October 31. Applicants with last names that start with M through Z may apply between November 1 and December 31. Beginning January 1, 2015, applications for registry identification cards will be accepted year-round.
The Department of Public Health also announced town hall meetings to answer questions from those who want to apply for patient registry IDs. Meetings are schedule to take place in Collinsville on August 14, Peoria on August 18, and Chicago on August 20.
Until now, Chicago has been unable to take advantage of Illinois’s medical marijuana law. However, the Chicago Sun Times reports that the Chicago Joint Committee on Administrative Rules will meet tomorrow to discuss how they would implement the medical marijuana pilot program. If there are no objections in the committee, the process of registering patients, as well as dispensaries and cultivation centers, can begin. Should the committee do this, people with debilitating medical conditions would be able to apply for a registry identification card in September. The medical marijuana distributed would have to be grown in state by law and should be available to patients within four to six months of the start of cultivation.
MPP estimates that at least 10,000 people could qualify as patients in Chicago. Chris Lindsey, one of MPP’s legislative analysts, believes that Illinois will move faster than other states with their medical marijuana program. Lindsey said, “A lot of people now know about medical marijuana. They’ve heard about this in Illinois.” If the committee moves forward without delay, medical marijuana would most likely be available in Chicago by 2015.
The Chicago Committee on Zoning, Landmarks and Building Standards is considering a proposed ordinance by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Alderman Edward M. Burke that would restrict the location of medical marijuana dispensaries to manufacturing zones in Chicago.
Seriously ill patients should not be relegated to areas normally limited to manufacturing businesses and industry. The proper location for medical marijuana dispensaries should be no different than any pharmacy. This proposal would create an additional burden on patients by requiring many to travel extra distances to potentially dangerous areas just to obtain their medicine.
This isn't the only proposed regulation that is making patients upset. The state also wants applicants to undergo strenuous background checks and relinquish their right to own a firearm.
Like a lot of people, my morning routine involves clicking around a few major news sites to see what people are talking about that day. Disgusting cruise ships and exploding Russian meteorites aside, one of the stories that caught my eye today was a CNN.com story about Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the head of the notorious Sinaloa cartel in Mexico. Yesterday, the Chicago Crime Commission named Guzman “Public Enemy Number One,” a title CNN notes was created for bootlegger and gangster Al Capone.
Not since Capone "has any criminal deserved this title more than Joaquin Guzman," commission President J.R. Davis said in a news release. "Guzman is the major supplier of narcotics to Chicago. His agents are working in the Chicago area importing vast quantities of drugs for sale throughout the Chicago region and collecting and sending to Mexico tens of millions of dollars in drug money."
The distinction isn’t surprising. Guzman’s syndicate is the single largest supplier of marijuana and other drugs that come into the U.S. It’s a lucrative gig — according to Forbes, Guzman’s net worth exceeds $1 billion — which explains why Guzman so ruthlessly protects his turf. Estimates of the death toll in Mexico’s drug war are now over 60,000.
What is surprising is that neither CNN’s story nor most of America’s elected officials have connected the dots between Capone and Guzman and how prohibition was the source of their power and wealth. Whether it’s the 1920's or 2013, ceding control of a lucrative market to criminals enriches thugs like Capone and Guzman. Conversely, just as ending alcohol prohibition put bootleggers out of business, ending marijuana prohibition would deal a significant blow to drug trafficking cartels like Guzman’s.
Today, the City Council of Chicago voted 43-3 to amend the city’s code to direct police officers to cite, rather than arrest, individuals in possession of 15 grams or less of marijuana. Under the proposal, which has the support of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, police could still arrest those who cannot produce identification or present a threat to public safety. Those cited would face fines of $200 to $500 dollars and up to 10 hours of community service; however, there would be no risk of jail time.
Passage of the measure means that adults in possession of small amounts of marijuana will no longer be arrested or saddled with criminal records that can make it harder to obtain employment, housing, and student loans. The ordinance will also allow law enforcement to focus on more serious crimes, like the city’s soaring murder rate, while conserving limited police resources. Violent crime has become a serious concern in Chicago, with homicides up 38% over the last year.
Chicago now joins over 90 other localities in Illinois and 15 other states across the nation in removing criminal penalties for low-level marijuana possession. Since enacting laws replacing arrest and jail with fines for such violations, there has been no appreciable increase in marijuana use in those areas, either among adults or young people. The move follows a recent trend in marijuana reforms, including a similar penalty reform in Rhode Island and medical marijuana legislation in Connecticut this May and June. Legislative chambers in New York, New Hampshire, and New Jersey also approved marijuana policy reforms in recent weeks. This trend reflects growing public consensus that harsh marijuana laws are ineffective, and scarce law enforcement resources should not be used to arrest adults for using a substance safer than alcohol.
If only President Obama's former colleagues, like his good friend the Mayor of Chicago, could convince him that people are ready for real marijuana policy change, and that we need it more than ever.
Supporters of a medical marijuana law in Illinois, headed by MPP, have announced the release of radio ads calling on Illinois residents to urge their state representatives to support Senate bill 1381, which would allow doctors to recommend marijuana, also known as cannabis, to qualified patients suffering from cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis and other debilitating illnesses.
The ad – which will be broadcast in the Chicago, Peoria, Quad Cities, and Rockford media markets – features Chicago resident and multiple sclerosis patient Julie Falco, who has used medical cannabis to help ease the pain and muscle spasms associated with her condition.
“I’ve tried many prescription drugs to control the extreme pain I’ve lived with every day,” Falco says in the ad. “However, most of them caused terrible side effects that left me flattened and nonfunctional. I’ve found that cannabis works best for me. It allows better control of my symptoms so I can lead a fulfilling, healthier quality of life. In Illinois, though, it’s a crime for me to use my medicine – even though my doctor recommends it. Thankfully the legislature can change that in early January.”
Falco then encourages the 68 percent of Illinois voters who support medical marijuana, according to a 2008 Mason-Dixon poll, to visit protectpatients.org and ask their state representative to support SB 1381. “People living with chronic illness should not be criminalized for following doctor’s orders,” Falco says.
To hear the ad, visit www.mpp.org/julie.
The state House of Representatives voted on SB 1381 on Nov. 30, but when neither side reached a majority, the bill’s sponsor asked for “postponed consideration,” meaning the bill could be raised again in early January before the new legislature is sworn in. Under the bill, qualified patients could obtain medical marijuana from state-licensed organizations regulated by the state health department, which would also issue medical marijuana ID cards to patients who receive a recommendation from their doctor.