SPRINGFIELD — With the Legislature on spring break until April 30, advocacy groups are working to get their points across on topics such as cannabis legalization and a graduated income tax.

State Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago, said she expects amended language to be filed on her adult-use legalization, Senate Bill 7, by the end of April.

While details of the bill have not been released publicly, 60 state representatives have signed onto a resolution by state Rep. Marty Moylan, D-Des Plaines, urging lawmakers to “slow the process of legalizing recreational marijuana.”

On Tuesday, a mental health advocacy group urged caution in the legalization process as well, noting that legalization will come with a behavioral health care impact, particularly on teens, and lawmakers “must be ready to pony up the money to pay for care.”

Illinois Association for Behavioral Health CEO Sara Howe said data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health shows the average rate of regular teen marijuana use in the legalized states of Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington is 30 percent higher than the U.S. rate as a whole.

Howe said her group is ready to assist the Legislature “in crafting a well-thought-out and carefully implemented policy.”

Meanwhile, the Medical Cannabis Alliance of Illinois, a trade association representing cultivation centers and dispensary organizations, issued a news release in support of House Bill 895, a bill to make permanent the state’s legalized medicinal program.

In addition to making the pilot program permanent, House Bill 895 would expand qualifying conditions for medical cannabis treatment.

MCAI announced a new online resource, www.cannaqualify.com, to help people get access to medicinal cannabis.

Graduated tax

While the public vote for a graduated income tax is more than 19 months away, even if the measure makes the ballot, dark money groups continue to pour resources into advertising campaigns for or against Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s signature proposal.

Both Ideas Illinois — a business-tied anti-graduated tax 501(c)4 organization — and Think Big Illinois — a Pritzker-aligned 501(c)4 — were active Monday — the last day to file income tax returns — sending out news releases and announcing new advertisement spots.

In a Chicago Sun-Times op-ed highlighted in a tax day email, Ideas Illinois Chairman Greg Baise said allowing lawmakers to implement a graduated tax is “like giving a kid in a candy store a blank check.”

Think Big Illinois showcased a competing op-ed from Illinois Federation of Teachers President Dan Montgomery that highlighted why “a fair tax is needed to lift the burden off middle- and lower-income families and provide much-needed funding to our state’s education system.”


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