CNDP staff participated in a press conference Wednesday morning to announce legislation that would legalize marijuana in Illinois. House Bill 2353 and Senate Bill 316 would permit adults to purchase up to one ounce of cannabis from a licensed store. All cannabis would be taxed at the state’s sale tax of 6.25%. We introduced the newly formed Coalition for a Safer Illinois that will support the bills. Included are: Law Enforcement for Action Partnership (LEAP), Doctors for Cannabis Regulation (DFCR), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Illinois Chapter of the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), Students for a Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP), and the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP).
In November of 2015, the Washington Post reported that in the previous year law enforcement had taken more property from people – including cash, automobiles, and even homes – than burglars had stolen. Burglary losses amounted to $3.5 billion, while, shockingly, the net asset of police seizures amounted to $4.5 billion. (via The Institute for Justice) More disturbingly, this number reflected only federal statistics, and not seizures by state police and local law enforcement, data that in most cases is extremely difficult to obtain. Law enforcement utilizes a practice known as civil asset forfeiture to permanently confiscate property they perceive to be involved in criminal activity. This is done without requiring officers to prove the person or the property is guilty and/or connected to criminal activity. The process to reclaim one’s property in the event of seizure is legally complex, expensive, and time-sensitive, making the extreme majority of assets logistically impossible for most people to reclaim. Furthermore, law enforcement is inherently incentivized to persist the practice as all funds obtained through asset forfeiture are re-directed to the operating budgets of their respective departments.
Most people understand that when a person has profited from criminal activity, the government can take steps to deprive that person of the illicit profits. But few understand that, through a practice called civil asset forfeiture, law enforcement can permanently take property they believe to be involved in criminal activity without ever having to prove anyone guilty of a crime, or even file charges.
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.
By Rev. Alexander E. Sharp Once again, Illinois is on the cusp of providing civil enforcement, not criminal penalties, for the possession of low-level amounts of marijuana. SB 2228 (see fact sheet), which passed the General Assembly on May 18, now sits on Governor Rauner’s desk – for the second time. If Governor Rauner signs the legislation, Illinois would become the 21st state to stop jailing individuals for low-level marijuana possession. The General Assembly passed a similar bill over a year ago. The Governor blocked it with an amendatory veto. It is critical that Illinois clergy communicate to the Governor their strong, continued support for the current bill by signing the letter included here.