By Mark Wachtler
March 23, 2015. Springfield. (ONN) A new Bill in the Illinois State House is only one month old but has already passed out of Committee and is heading to the full House. HB 2750 is titled the Cannabis Study Act and if passed, would order a state agency to create a full report on the implications, both positive and negative, of full marijuana legalization in the state of Illinois. Supporters and critics both agree this is the first step in legalizing cannabis for recreational use like alcohol and tobacco.
Illinois is looking into becoming the third state with full marijuana legalization. Image courtesy of Buzzfeed.
Divided along Party lines
On February 20th, State Rep Robyn Gabel (D-Evanston) introduced HB 2750 - the Cannabis Study Act. The Bill was assigned to the Rules Committee the same day. Ten days later, it moved to the Judiciary-Criminal Committee. Last week, that Committee passed the Bill 9-6 in a vote along Party lines with Democrats Sims, Drury, Cassidy, Golar, Mayfield, Mitchell, Turner, Welch and Zalewski voting for the measure. The Committee’s six Republican members voted against it. They included Cabello, Anthony, Bryant, Sandack, Stewart and Wheeler.
HB 2750 does not legalize marijuana. It only orders an official state study on the impacts of legalization if Illinois were to join Colorado, Washington State and the nation’s capitol in treating cannabis like alcohol and tobacco. Now that the Bill has passed out of Committee to the full State House, there is still no guarantee that it will ever be called for a vote or that newly elected Governor Rauner would sign the legislation. It’s currently on the House calendar awaiting its second reading to the full body.
With Democratic super-majorities in both the House and Senate in Illinois, it’s highly probable that the Bill will be brought for a vote. But with the difficult time Evanston and Chicago Democrats had in legalizing medical marijuana in the state after a decade of effort, it still remains to be seen whether supporters will be able to collect enough votes to pass HB 2750. Since the legislation only authorizes a study, and a study many state legislators in the near-bankrupt state are genuinely interested in, the Bill may surprise opponents and pass with votes to spare.
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HB 2750 - Cannabis Study Act
According to the Illinois Legislative website, HB 2750 would require the Illinois Sentencing Policy Advisory Council to conduct a study on marijuana legalization and deliver it to the State Legislature by December 20, 2015. The Bill’s text includes eleven separate determinations the House wants made in order to gain a better understanding of the impact of legalization. They include:
(1) determine the effect regulation and taxation would have on law enforcement resources;
(2) determine the impact regulation would have on the rate of arrests, predisposition detention, and sentencing;
(3) review approaches a cannabis regulation law could take regarding drug-free workplace policies and procedures and what effect the different approaches would have;
(4) determine the effect regulation and taxation would have on existing criminal laws, including the Cannabis Control Act;
(5) review approaches states have taken to reduce risks associated with the operation of motor vehicles by individuals impaired by intoxicants including but not limited to cannabis, and what effect the different approaches have had on rates of fatalities;
(6) determine to what extent the taxation and regulation of cannabis may generate employment and revenue in Illinois if at all;
(7) determine the regulatory and taxing system needed for the licensing of entities to sell cannabis and the licensing of entities to grow cannabis;
(8) determine the product labeling, quality control, and taxing regulations needed;
(9) compare the health effects of cannabis, alcohol, and prescription drugs on the individual and community as it relates to violence, risk-taking, addiction, cancer, overdose, and mortality;
(10) determine the impact that existing laws on cannabis possession have on rates of crime and violence; and
(11) any other relevant analysis regarding the impact on the public safety and welfare of the citizens of Illinois.
Supporters and opponents of the Bill are already lobbying Illinois legislators. A report from the Illinois Review quoted a spokesman from the Illinois Church Action on Alcohol and Addiction Problems in their opposition to the study. On the other side of the issue are grassroots groups like the Illinois chapter of NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. The organization cites a number of initiatives in the works in the state including three Bills that together would decriminalize marijuana and make it a ticketed offense. They’re also promoting the 2015 Global Cannabis March being held in Chicago on May 2nd.
Most supporters of decriminalization or legalization of marijuana in Illinois were disheartened when the state elected a Republican Governor this November for the first time since the Party’s last one went to prison for corruption in 2003. But ironically, for an issue where Democrats are traditionally supportive and Republicans opposed, the state’s past two Governors have reversed that trend. Just-ousted Democratic Governor Pat Quinn violated a law he signed by refusing to issue medical marijuana permits by 2015 and he left the issue in the hands of incoming Republican Governor Bruce Rauner.
But rather than sit on the permits forever and keep the medical pot program from ever starting as most had anticipated, the GOP Governor instead lit a fire under the state’s dysfunctional regulatory process and began issuing medical marijuana permits so fast, authorities didn’t even wait for federal criminal background checks for recipients of the state’s coveted grower and dispensary licenses. If Illinois were to fully legalize cannabis, it wouldn’t happen until after December when the impact study is due.
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