Civil Asset Forfeiture Over the past three months, many of you responded to our TAKE ACTION on civil asset forfeiture reform in Illinois. We are delighted to report that HB 303 and SB Al, sponsored by Rep. Will Guzzardi (D-39th) and Sen. Don Harmon (D-39th) passed the Illinois Senate unanimously and the House with one dissenting vote, and now awaits Governor Rauner’s signature. Most importantly, the bill requires that the burden of proof rest with the government in cases where an individual’s property is seized when law enforcement claims it has been involved with illegal activity. Until now, property owners have – contrary to U.S. standards of justice – had to prove their innocence. The bill also requires police and prosecutors to collect data and report on seized property and the use of proceeds. It exempts small sums of cash and mere possession of small drug amounts from seizures, and it makes it easier for “innocent victims” to claim the return of their property. This is not a perfect bill. Proceeds from seizure still go to support the budgets of police and prosecutors, a clear conflict of interest. Six states, including Indiana, Missouri, and New Mexico, keep agencies from keeping forfeiture proceeds. But the Illinois legislation is an important step forward. We recognize the ACLU, Cabrini Legal Aid, and other advocates for their extraordinary work. Thank you for your support. Click for more information. Taxation and Regulation Vermont, Connecticut, and Rhode Island are poised to join the eight states that have already legalized marijuana for recreational use. CNDP staff has developed strong clergy support in each of these three. They are especially significant because anyone could become the first to take this step through legislative action rather than a ballot initiative. Procedurally, Vermont is the closest. In mid-May, the house and senate approved adult possession of small amounts of marijuana. After initially vetoing the bill, Governor Scott supported a compromise, including a commission to recommend a tax and regulation system. This bill awaits legislative action when the General Assembly reconvenes in January. Connecticut introduced a tax and regulate bill in March. While neither chamber voted, the draft budget forwarded by the Senate and House contains a $180 million revenue total from marijuana sales. The session ended without budget approval, but action, including marijuana legalization, could take place in the next few weeks. Rhode Island has been on the cusp of tax and regulation for the past two years. Advocates are confident of majority support in both the House and Senate and note that three out of five Rhode Islanders support ending prohibition. The key task is to convince leaders in both chambers that the time has come for a vote.
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).
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.
Rev. Alan Jones, Pastor of St. Mark’s United Methodist Church, Sacramento and President of the California Council of Churches, joined by five clergy colleagues (video below) calls for approval of California’s Proposition 64 to tax and regulate marijuana. Prop 64 passed with a 56% “Yes” vote. Transcript of Rev. Dr. Alan Jones statement: I believe that the basis of any Christian moral decision is being honest, so you start from the position of telling the truth about what’s going on. What’s going on is that people across California are using marijuana. I am told that on any street you can purchase marijuana. It’s illegal, but you can purchase it. There’s no law enforcement for it. This is a dishonest position. Proposition 64 calls us into an honest engagement with marijuana. You know, we Methodists used to be famous for the fact that we were required not to consume alcohol. Booze was a real problem and we had to say “no.” We’ve evolved over the years, and the United Methodist Social Principles now say concerning alcohol that” judicious use with deliberate and intentional restraint with Scripture as our guide” is the way to proceed. I would advise everybody as a person of faith looking at Prop 64 to consider “judicious use with deliberate and intentional restraint with Scripture as our guide.” And look primarily at the teaching of Jesus. Jesus when asked what the bottom line is, said,” Love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength; and love your neighbor as yourself.” And if you do that you, have to find your way into Prop 64. So let’s vote to support Prop 64.
Marijuana reform took a quantum leap forward on Election Day. Until November 8, legal use had been confined to four western states: Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska. It now has a national base. Four new states – California, Nevada, Massachusetts, and Maine – voted to tax and regulate. California is, of course, the biggest prize. But with Massachusetts and Maine, the movement now extends coast-to-coast.