Hammond Votes Against Marijuana Legalization, Citing Safety and Regulatory Concerns

Springfield – State Representative Norine Hammond (R-Macomb) today voted against legislation legalizing and taxing the recreational use of cannabis, commonly referred to as marijuana, and establishes rules and regulations for marijuana-related businesses. The legislation also expunges convictions for individuals who were convicted for past marijuana possession charges, among other changes in the state criminal code.

“I have many concerns and unanswered questions over the legalization of recreational marijuana, which is why I voted no on the legislation earlier today,” said Rep. Hammond. “The legislation does not adequately address health and safety issues that will arise from legalization. Former felons who have had their convictions expunged may be allowed to possess firearms and some marijuana dealers may have their criminal records cleared. There is no court-admissible, roadside field sobriety test for drivers operating vehicles under the influence of marijuana. That will not make our communities safer. These are issues that should’ve been addressed before the passage of this bill.”

The legislation, House Bill 1438 (HB 1438), allows for the possession of up to 30 grams of marijuana for Illinois citizens. HB 1438 expunges arrest records for individuals who possessed up to 30 grams of marijuana, and allows the governor to pardon individuals who were convicted for possession of up to 30 grams of marijuana. Individuals convicted of possession between 30-500 grams of marijuana, which includes marijuana dealers, may file a motion to expunge their records with the state’s attorney’s office who pursued the conviction.

HB 1438 is opposed by the Illinois Sheriff’s Association, the Illinois Farm Bureau, and other advocacy groups. Members of the law enforcement community expressed concerns over the expungement process and enforcement of driving while under the influence (DUI) laws. They also expressed concerns that legalization will lead to more traffic fatalities and emergency room visits.

“The State of Illinois should not be in the business of promoting marijuana use,” Hammond continued. “This legislation creates a loan program funded by the state to open marijuana businesses. With so many financial issues facing our state, that’s the last thing we should do with our tax dollars. The legislation also contains very few limits on the marketing of marijuana to potential users. That is irresponsible and may lead to long-term detrimental health consequences.”

“Finally, there are no guarantees that tax revenues from the sale of marijuana will be distributed to our communities equitably. The legislation also defers much of the rule-writing authority to executive branch agencies, so lawmakers and the people of Illinois do not even know what all the rules will be on this massive social change. That is not a responsible way to make such a sweeping law,” said Hammond.

HB 1438 also levies taxes on the sale of marijuana and allocates those tax revenues to new state-funded programs. The legislation has no guarantees that those new tax revenues will be distributed across the state equitably.

The legislation does not contain many finalized regulations and grants broad regulation-writing authority to executive branch agencies, including the Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA) and Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR). Federal law enforcement authorities still regulate marijuana as a “Schedule I” drug.

HB 1438 passed the Illinois Senate last night and passed the Illinois House of Representatives today. The legislation now moves to the governor’s desk for his signature. The governor is expected to sign the legislation.