Illinois Lawmakers Approve Resolution Condemning ‘Shameful’ And ‘Inhumane’ War On Drugs
An Illinois House committee on Thursday approved a blistering resolution condemning the war on drugs and its discriminatory impact on communities of color.
The House Human Services Committee adopted the measure, which has the short title of “Shameful History-War on Drugs.” It’s now been placed on the calendar for floor consideration.
While there have been similar resolutions filed in Congress and state legislatures decrying the harms of criminalizing people over drugs, this one in particular, sponsored by Rep. Mary Flowers (D), puts the issue in no uncertain terms.
It starts with the history of the drug war under the Nixon administration, calling it a “a failed, costly, and inhumane” effort that would “prove to be the United States’ longest and costliest war and ultimately a complete and shameful failure.”
What’s more, the “real enemies” that President Richard Nixon targeted “were not drug abusers but were the anti-war left and Black Americans,” the measure states.
The drug war fueled mass incarceration, it continues, noting that one factor that’s led to a more recent decline in the male prison population seems to be states and local municipalities moving to legalize or decriminalize marijuana.
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“The War on Drugs has proven to be a costly, failed disaster that shamefully affected some of America’s most vulnerable populations,” the resolution says, “therefore, be it resolved, by the House of Representatives of the 102nd General Assembly of the state of Illinois, that we recognize the shameful and discriminatory history of the War on Drugs in the United States.”
Illinois legalized marijuana through an act of the legislature in 2019, and lawmakers and administration officials alike have emphasized the need to promote social equity in the industry to right the wrongs of prohibition.
But that goal has proved challenging to attain. The state has faced criticism from advocates and lawsuits from marijuana business applicants who feel officials haven’t done enough to ensure diversity among business owners in the industry.
That said, the House on Tuesday approved a bill that is meant to build upon the legalization law by creating more cannabis business licensing opportunities that are meant to help people from disproportionately impacted communities enter into the marijuana industry.
Meanwhile, adult-use marijuana sales in the state are projected to exceed $1 billion by the end of 2021. Illinois has consistently seen record-breaking sales since launching its recreational market in January 2020.
Illinois officials have emphasized that the tax dollars from these sales are being put to good use. For example, the state announced in January that it is distributing $31.5 million in grants funded by marijuana tax dollars to communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs.
The funds are part of the state’s Restore, Reinvest, and Renew (R3) program, which was established under Illinois’s adult-use cannabis legalization law. It requires 25 percent of marijuana tax dollars to be put in that fund and used to provide disadvantaged people with services such as legal aid, youth development, community reentry and financial support.
Awarding the new grant money is not all that Illinois is doing to promote social equity and repair the harms of cannabis criminalization. Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) announced in December that his office had processed more than 500,000 expungements and pardons for people with low-level cannabis convictions on their records.
Relatedly, a state-funded initiative was recently established to help residents with marijuana convictions get legal aid and other services to have their records expunged.
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