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WIRE: Coalition forms to support recreational cannabis legalization in Illinois

CHICAGO — Sponsors of a proposal to regulate and tax marijuana for adult use in Illinois announced Wednesday that lawmakers will hold the first hearing on the bill next week in Chicago.

The Senate and House Appropriations committees will hold a joint hearing on SB 316 and HB 2353 on Wednesday, April 19, in the Michael A. Bilandic Building, according to Senate Committee Chairwoman Heather Steans (D-Chicago) and Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago).

“Illinois’ marijuana policy is like an old car that the General Assembly has kept on the road these past few years by adding a new part and patching up some old ones,” Steans said. “The time has come to start discussing our options for replacing it with a newer model — something more modern and cost-effective with improved safety features.”

The lawmakers announced the details of the hearing during a news conference in the James R. Thompson Center. The event served as the formal launch of the Coalition for a Safer Illinois, which will mobilize support for ending marijuana prohibition in the state and advocate for SB 316 and HB 2353.

“Marijuana prohibition poses more potential harm to citizens and our community than marijuana itself,” said Rev. Alexander Sharp of Chicago, a spokesman for the coalition and executive director of Clergy for a New Drug Policy (CNDP). “It is forcing marijuana into a dangerous underground market where consumers may encounter violence, contaminated products, and other illegal drugs. Ending prohibition and regulating marijuana for adult use would make Illinois safer.”

The Coalition for a Safer Illinois is made up of citizens, community leaders, and local and national organizations includes CNDP, the ACLU of Illinois, Doctors for Cannabis Regulation, Law Enforcement Action Partnership, the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), and the Illinois chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). More information about the coalition is available at

“Most Americans recognize that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol, and a lot of lawmakers are just starting to come to grips with that fact,” said MPP Legislative Counsel Chris Lindsey. “Issuing marijuana possession citations to thousands of adults is not really making anyone safer. But what if law enforcement officials used all that time to address serious crimes instead? It could really make a difference.”

SB 316 and HB 2353 would make it legal for adults 21 and older to possess, grow, and purchase limited amounts of marijuana. The state would license and regulate businesses to cultivate, process, test, and sell marijuana to adults, and it would create and enforce strict health and safety regulations, such as testing and labeling requirements and restrictions on marketing.

“We have a great opportunity to examine how these laws are working in other states and develop a system that will work best for Illinois,” Cassidy said. “There has been a lot of discussion about the tax revenue and other potential economic benefits. We also need to consider the potential public health and safety benefits of removing marijuana from the criminal market and actually controlling production and sales.”

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The Coalition for a Safer Illinois is a coalition of citizens, community leaders, and local and national organizations that support ending marijuana prohibition in Illinois and replacing it with a system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol. For more information, visit  

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