On Thursday, the Illinois Senate approved a bill to remove criminal penalties for simple marijuana possession, replacing the threat of jail time, a criminal record, and a lifetime of collateral consequences with a $125 fine, similar to a ticket for a traffic offense. The measure, which was approved by the House of Representatives in April, will now be sent to Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) for his signature.
By Rev. Alexander E. Sharp, Project Director of Clergy for a New Drug Policy
The following letter is being distributed to all Illinois State Senators on Tuesday, May 19 in anticipation of a vote on HB 218. Please call and urge their support.
The Illinois State Senate will most likely vote this week on a bill to substitute civil sanctions – a fine, much like a traffic ticket – rather than criminal penalties for possession of very low levels of cannabis. Why should this bill (HB 218) pass? Because it reflects the truth that arrests and jail are the wrong way to respond to those who use drugs. Punishment is not the answer.
By Rev. Alexander E. Sharp
Last December, I travelled to Vermont to engage clergy in ending the War on Drugs. The Episcopal Bishop had generously agreed to convene a group of colleagues in his Burlington office. They listened politely and offered constructive responses as I outlined why treating drug use as a crime, rather than a health problem, is morally wrong.
When I mentioned that our current drug laws mean that individuals are “marked for life” – with barriers that keep them from ever getting jobs, housing, education and, if they are poor, public assistance and food stamps – the conversation jumped to a whole new level. “I didn’t know that,” the Bishop exclaimed. “We’ve got to educate people about this.”
By Rev. Alexander E. Sharp
On Monday April 20th, Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez announced three major changes in the way her office responds to non-violent drug cases. Her staff will no longer prosecute most low-level marijuana offenders and will direct Class 4 non-violent controlled substance offenders into treatment. The Office also will create a street-level diversion program for juveniles modeled on the successful Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) programs modeled in Seattle and Santa Fe.
FAITH LEADERS IN CHICAGO SUPPORT ANNOUNCEMENT OF COOK COUNTY STATE’S ATTORNEY ALVAREZ DECISION TO DISMISS MINOR MARIJUANA CASES
Chicago, IL – Religious leaders across Cook County applauded State’s Attorney Anita Alverez’s announcement this morning that her office will no longer prosecute misdemeanor marijuana possession cases and will steer Class 4 felony cases to community-based drug treatment programs.