Reducing Barriers To Recovery

grygielny IL, Take Action

“Let justice roll down like waters.”
Amos 5:24

Dear Friends and Colleagues, 

It has been exciting to see the growth of this community over the past year with the work of my colleague Timothy McMahan King. 

I’ve been working diligently on a book that will articulate a theological framework for ending the so-called War on Drugs. I will be excited to share this project with you in the future. 

While I know our supporters are across the country, I wanted to share with you a letter we are collecting clergy and faith leader signatures to send to the Illinois General Assembly. 

The “Reducing Barriers to Recovery” (SB 1830) is a bill that would reclassify low-level drug possession in Illinois from a felony to a misdemeanor. 

It is an understatement to say that this bill would significantly reduce the damage our current drug law inflicts upon so many lives. 

We believe the bill has a good chance of passing the General assembly this year, and that lifting up the voices of faith leaders from across Illinois’ diverse communities will be crucial to help ensure the success of this campaign.

More information about SB 1830 can be found on this website.

If you are clergy or a faith leader in the state of Illinois, I hope you will join me in adding your signature to the letter by completing this form

We also request that you share the letter and form with other clergy, faith leaders, and faith-based organizations in your networks and ask them to add their signatures to the form as well. 

Feel free to add your own comments in communicating this request.

You might also mention that under “organization” it is not necessary to include the signer’s congregation. The individual signer’s address is helpful. 

Thank you so much for your support.


Rev. Alexander E. Sharp
Executive Director, Clergy for a New Drug Policy

P.S. If you know of other initiatives across the country like this that we can support, please let us know. 

To the Members of the Illinois General Assembly:

As clergy and faith leaders in Illinois, we urge your immediate support for “Reducing Barriers to Recovery,” Senate Bill 1830.

By reclassifying small-scale drug possession from a felony to a misdemeanor, this bill would align society’s response to drug use with our fundamental values of compassion, fairness, and justice.

Two overriding principles guide our support:

First, in a civilized society, the burden of proof should always be on those who deprive individuals of their freedom. Jail and prison should always be the last resort.

Second, all of our traditions have in common the moral teaching of equality and the call to love our neighbors. We reject laws which divide us by race and income, thereby creating “the other” in our midst.  We are united in our commitment to building the beloved community in which every person is treated equally.

SB 1830 works toward both ends.

Punishment as drug policy does not work. It has not decreased the supply of drugs or curtailed use. It has not reduced crime.  Overdose deaths continue to rise. SB 1830 would reduce the damage of current failed policies. 

Drug use is fundamentally a health issue. Incarcerating people doesn’t help them recover from substance use problems. SB 1830 would prioritize connecting individuals to appropriate treatment. 

The criminal legal system should focus on holding individuals who harm others accountable. People who put only themselves at risk need compassion and mercy, not judgment.

Moreover, treating drug use as a felony exacerbates social and economic divisions in society.

Black and brown people, usually poor, are far more likely to be arrested and imprisoned for low-level drug offenses even as drug use is equally prevalent in middle and upper-class communities.

When we label people as felons, often for possessing minuscule amounts of substances, we cripple their chance of future employment, condemning them to a lifetime of societal stigma and limiting access to vital services.  SB 1830 would alleviate these wrongs.

As clergy, we are all too aware of the dangers of drug use. Each of us serve people and communities negatively impacted by addiction and tragic overdose deaths. We speak on this topic only with great care.  We do so because SB 1830 will bring us closer to drug policy that respects all individuals even as it serves the common good. 

The New York Times published an in depth exploration of the work of On Point, the country’s first above ground overdose prevention center. The headline of the article called it a “radical” approach. The word “radical” is often thought of as simply “extreme.” But the word radical comes from the Latin radix, meaning “root.” 

In that sense, overdose prevention centers are radical as they get to the root issue that drug use is a public health issue and that people who use drugs are worthy of dignity, respect and access to the health care and support they need.