Civil Sanctions Not Arrests in Illinois

rforan8 Collateral Consequences, Decriminalization, IL, Opinion

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.

Needlessly Ruined Lives

rforan8 Collateral Consequences, Decriminalization

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.”

Changing Drug Policy in Illinois

rforan8 Decriminalization, IL

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.

Decriminalizing Marijuana in Illinois

rforan8 Decriminalization, IL, State

By Rev. Alexander E. Sharp, CNDP Director  The leaders of the Community Renewal Society (CRS) have just voted to support legislation to decriminalize marijuana in Illinois this year. There are two reasons why this is significant. First, CRS is one of the most powerful faith-based organizations in Illinois and a growing presence in the state capital. CRS support will really matter. Second, the CRS decision tells us that current drug policy is clearly seen as a failure, even where it is most visible, namely in communities of color. Many congregations which support CRS are located in Chicago neighborhoods burdened by poverty and violence. Everyday residents see how drugs have devastated their communities. Drug use breeds violence, destroys families, and ruins individual lives. So why decriminalize marijuana? More broadly, why should one ever support a policy that seems to condone drug use? There are several key points.