On Thursday, May 21, the Illinois Senate approved a bill to remove criminal penalties for simple marijuana possession, replacing the threat of jail time, a criminal record, and a lifetime of collateral consequences with a $125 fine, similar to a ticket for a traffic offense.
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.
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.
FAITH LEADERS IN CHICAGO SUPPORT ANNOUNCEMENT OF COOK COUNTY STATE’S ATTORNEY ALVAREZ DECISION TO DISMISS MINOR MARIJUANA CASES Chicago, IL – Religious leaders across Cook County applauded State’s Attorney Anita Alverez’s announcement this morning that her office will no longer prosecute misdemeanor marijuana possession cases and will steer Class 4 felony cases to community-based drug treatment programs.
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.