IPHI Releases “Protecting Public Health and Promoting Equity in Adult-Use Marijuana Legalization in Illinois”

The Illinois Public Health Institute (IPHI) is pleased to release the policy brief, “Protecting Public Health and Promoting Equity in Adult-Use Marijuana Legalization in Illinois.” These recommendations for policymakers were created by IPHI and other health and equity groups in Illinois that considered the scientific evidence related to the health effects of marijuana and the potential social and health equity impacts of legalization efforts. With adult-use marijuana legalization proposals from Illinois lawmakers and Governor-elect JB Pritzker, this paper provides a framework for protecting public health and promoting equity in any potential legalization in Illinois.

A public health and equity framework for adult-use (21 years +) marijuana legalization would follow the following principles:

  • Protect vulnerable populations and minimize health harms
  • Ensure that social and economic benefits of legalization promote health and equity
  • Create a strong public health leadership and regulatory scheme, including local control

Key recommendations from the paper include the following:

  • Product packaging and labeling must help prevent accidental ingestion/use by children, youth and pregnant women
  • The state must invest tax revenues into programs and initiatives that promote and protect health and equity, especially in/for communities most impacted by the War on Drugs
  • If legalized, Illinois should take a slow, phased-in approach to legalization to slow down the commercialization of the product, limit youth access, and protect against high-potency products linked with a higher frequency of psychoses and dependency
  • The state should automatically expunge past criminal convictions for possession or non-violent marijuana related crimes
  • Marketing of adult-use marijuana must be limited to protect youth and other vulnerable populations
  • Warning labels should be required to be prominently posted on product packages and any allowed marketing messages
  • The types of products allowed should be limited. Cannabis-infused beverages and flavored combustibles known to attract youth should be banned
  • The state must make significant investments into a public education and prevention campaign specific to cannabis before the first adult-use stores open
  • Illinois must limit the number and density of adult-use marijuana retailers and should allow only specialized business model licenses
  • The adult-use marijuana regulatory agencies should be built on the medical cannabis regulatory infrastructure to streamline the regulatory process, build on the expertise and capacity that has already been developed, and save the state money
  • Local governments should have the authority to more strictly regulate marijuana sales in their jurisdictions
  • All marijuana smoking should be subject to Illinois’ existing state and local Smoke Free and clean indoor air laws

Read the full set of recommendations.

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