It is good news that Connecticut may become the first state to legalize marijuana through the action of state legislators rather than by ballot initiative. On the morning of March 7, a new state coalition– Regulate Connecticut — held a press conference to launch a campaign to tax and regulate marijuana there. The Public Health Committee of the Connecticut House then held over 14 hours of hearings. In the press conference, I made the case that legalizing marijuana can, and should, be made on religious, not just secular grounds. This is not immediately obvious. It requires a closer look.
Sometimes the most important thing you can do if you want to change somebody’s mind is not to argue, but instead, ask a question that gets at the very heart of the matter. This is exactly what Delegate Daniel Morhaim did last week as he introduced legislation before Maryland’s House Judiciary Committee that, if passed, could at long last bring an end to the War on Drugs in this country.
Two influential faith leaders from the south and west sides joined forces last Wednesday to build a base of support in Chicago for harm reduction rather than arrests and jail as the response to drug abuse and addiction. Chief Apostle William McCoy and Bishop Claude Porter, with Congressman Danny Davis, hosted a symposium on “Challenges and Options” for a new drug policy featuring the voices of diverse individuals from law enforcement, government, healthcare, and policy advocacy. Over 50 community residents were present.
As we head into the deep summer days of August, let’s take a moment to celebrate a major step forward for drug policy. Illinois has just become the 21st state to decriminalize the possession of low levels of marijuana. We are grateful for the more than 50 Illinois clergy who have signed the Religious Declaration of Clergy for a New Drug Policy, which includes marijuana decriminalization on our agenda. We thank the more than 30 who petitioned Governor Rauner to sign the bill after the General Assembly had passed it in mid-May. Based on the testimony from those who worked on this bill in Springfield, our voices made a difference.
SUMMARY OF ILLINOIS MARIJUANA CIVIL SANCTIONS BILL June 14, 2016 PROVIDES FOR CIVIL ENFORCEMENT, NOT CRIMINAL PENALITIES, FOR MARIJUANA POSSESSION The proposed legislation would eliminate the possibility of arrest and jail time for simple possession of marijuana in Illinois. Under the proposed law, an individual possessing not more than 10 grams (approximately one-third ounce) of marijuana would be charged with a civil, not a criminal, law violation punishable by a fine, like a traffic ticket, of no more than $200. Background: In 2010, there were over 49,000 arrests for marijuana possession in Illinois. Offenders face criminal prosecution even for low levels. Over 100 Illinois cities and towns, including Chicago, have already enacted local ordinances calling for civil sanctions comparable to a traffic ticket. This patchwork of ordinances and laws has led to uneven enforcement across the state. Despite these local actions, under current state law, police can continue to issue arrests leading to a criminal record.