Yesterday’s blue wave in Illinois poised to become a green wave next session
Gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker, who has been a vocal supporter of legalizing, taxing, and regulating cannabis for adults’ use, appears to have handily won yesterday’s gubernatorial election. While official election results are still pending, both the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times reported a margin of victory of around 55% of the vote.
In the race for state attorney general, cannabis reform supporter Sen. Kwame Raoul also notched a win with around 54% of the vote. Both J.B. Pritzker and Kwame Raoul were rated A+ candidates by MPP leading up to the election for their strong positions in support of sensible marijuana policy.
And a hearty congratulations go out to friend-of-the-movement Bob Morgan, who won the 58th District seat in the Illinois House of Representatives! Morgan headed up the successful launch of the state’s medical cannabis program, and as a private attorney, Bob has continued to be engaged in cannabis reform. He is a welcome addition to the General Assembly.
Yesterday’s results come as Sen. Heather Steans and Rep. Kelly Cassidy prepare to introduce a revised bill for the session starting in January that would legalize cannabis for adults in Illinois. This moment is a huge step toward the bill’s passage and an exciting moment for those who seek an end to cannabis prohibition in Illinois.
The Illinois general election takes place on November 6. It’s fast approaching, and voters this year will have a huge impact on the future of cannabis policy in Illinois. Lawmakers continue to look closely at ending marijuana prohibition and legalizing cannabis for adults 21 and over, and the differences between the two major party candidates for governor couldn’t be bigger on this issue: JB Pritzker (D) has come out in strong support of legalizing and regulating marijuana, while Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) remains opposed.
Take a minute to check out our Illinois Voter Guide and see where the candidates on your ballot stand on cannabis reform. Not all the candidates have a voting history on cannabis bills in the state House or Senate, but for those that do, we’ve summarized the voting record on key cannabis-related bills over the past several years.
If you haven’t registered to vote yet, you have until October 21 to register online. For more information, including where you can cast your ballot and when voting locations will be open, check out the state’s website here.
In nearby Michigan, voters will have an opportunity to legalize marijuana themselves. But in Illinois, there’s no citizen initiative process, so only lawmakers can end the wasteful and cruel policy of prohibition. This year’s elections will likely have a huge impact on the future of cannabis policy in Illinois. Now is the time for voters who support a better path for Illinois to make their voice heard.
Illinois governor signs opioid alternative bill, making huge improvements to medical cannabis program
Sweeping changes include medical cannabis access for opioid patients, streamlined process, and others
Illinois’s medical cannabis program took a major step forward today as Gov. Bruce Rauner signed bill SB 336, the Alternatives to Opioids Act, into law.
This historic change makes several key improvements:
• Opioid patients now qualify. Patients who are — or could be — prescribed opioid drugs will be able to register to obtain medical cannabis as an alternative.
• Shorter wait times. Patients will get provisional authorization to access medical cannabis as soon as their paperwork is submitted for registration — saving weeks of wait time.
• No more fingerprint requirement! Patients and caregivers will no longer be required to submit fingerprints to register for the program, and those with felony convictions in their past will no longer be denied access to the program.
Many thanks go to bill sponsors Sen. Don Harmon and Rep. Kelly Cassidy, and the many medical cannabis patients and supporters who worked to pass this major improvement to state law. The full text of the measure is here.
In other news, if you are in the neighborhood, the public is invited to tonight’s town hall on cannabis legalization for adults in La Grange, Illinois.
When: Tuesday, August 28 7:00 p.m.
Where: La Grange Village Hall Auditorium, 53 S. La Grange Road, La Grange, Illinois
Who: Bill sponsor Sen. Heather Steans, Rep. Jim Durkin, and several other panelists
Another big win for medical cannabis patients today — please spread the word! And if you can, come to tonight’s town hall and support a sensible legalization law in Illinois!
Students in Illinois who require access to medical cannabis during school hours were granted relief earlier in August, when Gov. Bruce Rauner signed Ashley’s Law into law. This marked a major step forward for patients, including the new law’s namesake, Ashley Surin, who sought access to help manage her seizure condition. Another bill, which would allow those prescribed opioids to qualify for the state program, is still awaiting the governor’s signature.
The governor only has until August 28 to sign, amend, or reject the bill.
The Opioid Alternative Pilot Program Act, which passed on May 31, not only allows those who could be prescribed opioid drugs to qualify for the medical cannabis program, it also dramatically improves current law by streamlining wait times and removing fingerprint requirements for patients. For a summary written by bill supporters — including key changes to background checks and shortened approval process — click here. The final bill draft language is here.
Gov. Rauner needs to hear from those who support this important change. If you are an Illinois resident, please click here to send an email message to his office.
Primary Election Day happens tomorrow in Illinois, and voters’ choices will have a huge impact on the future of cannabis policy in the state. Lawmakers are now considering legislation to end marijuana prohibition and legalize cannabis for adults 21 and over. Illinoisans should take a close look at whether candidates will stand up for sensible marijuana policy reform.
We’ve done some of the work for you. If you haven’t voted already, please check out our Illinois Voter’s Guide to see where the candidates appearing on your ballot stand on cannabis reform. For more information, including where you can cast your ballot and when voting locations will be open, check out the state’s website here.
While elected officials are more supportive of legalization than ever before, we want momentum to build, and this year’s elections will have a big impact both in the legislature and in the governor’s office. It’s crucial that supporters of cannabis reform make their voices heard in Illinois.
A court in Cook County, Illinois ruled last week that the Illinois Department of Public Health must add intractable pain as a qualifying condition to the state’s medical cannabis pilot program. Incredibly, the state has vowed to appeal the ruling and continue to shut pain patients out of the state program.
This is an outrage. A MoveOn.org petition is circulating that allows supporters to voice their opposition to the misguided decision by the state. If you agree the state should add intractable pain and want the state to drop its appeal plans, click here.
Patients and advocates have been working to add the condition to the state program since it went into effect in 2015. A panel of doctors and experts charged with considering new conditions voted unanimously to add pain, yet the health department refused to listen.
Even after a court reached the same conclusion, the health department continues to push back and deny access. As the nation struggles to bring a deadly opioid epidemic under control, medical cannabis should be an option for those who seek a safer alternative. Patients in Illinois should not be encouraged to seek relief from the underground market, when a regulated and tested alternative is available.
By unanimous vote, the Cook County, Illinois, Board of Commissioners approved placing a question about legalizing marijuana on the county’s March 20, 2018 ballot. Voters who live in the county will see the following question on their primary ballot:
“Shall the State of Illinois legalize the cultivation, manufacture, distribution, testing, and sale of marijuana and marijuana products for recreational use by adults 21 and older subject to state regulation, taxation and local ordinance?
Like voters across the state, Cook County voters appear to strongly support this sensible change. A March poll by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University found that 66% of voters in Illinois support a regulatory approach to cannabis control.
Cook County Commissioner John Fritchey put forth the measure, noting the obvious revenue boost cannabis taxation would bring to the county. But he said his real intent in supporting legalization is to end the disproportionate effect prohibition has had on communities of color.
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 Gov. Rauner just signed SB 2228, which removes criminal penalties for the possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana everywhere in Land of Lincoln. The change in the law is effective immediately.
Illinoisans or visitors found in possession of marijuana are no longer subject to arrest or jail time. The change also removes the possibility of a harmful criminal record for cannabis possession, which can last a lifetime. Instead, those found in possession would face a simple fine of between $100 and $200.
Previously in Illinois, possession of up to 2.5 grams of marijuana was a class C misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,500; possession of 2.5-10 grams was a class B misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,500. More than 100 Illinois communities had already removed local criminal penalties for simple marijuana possession.
This change comes from MPP’s multi-year effort to help bring fairness to the state’s possession law. Even though many cities and towns had already lowered penalties, but individuals could still be arrested and charged for possession under state law. This change moves the state away from its former patchwork system.
Illinois is now the 21st state in the nation, in addition to the District of Columbia, to remove the threat of jail time for simple marijuana possession.
We wish to thank bill sponsors Sen. Heather Steans and Rep. Kelly Cassidy for their strong advocacy for a better system. Their tireless effort on behalf of fairness made this law a reality.