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Illinois: Bill Introduced To Remove Criminal Penalties For Marijuana Possession

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Rep. Kelly Cassidy on Thursday announced that she is introducing new legislation for 2016 that would replace criminal penalties with a civil fine for possession of a personal amount of marijuana in Illinois.

HB 4357 would make possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana a civil violation punishable by a fine. Adults would no longer face time in jail, and the civil offense would be automatically expunged in order to prevent a permanent criminal record.

The proposal largely mirrors legislation previously introduced by Rep. Cassidy that was approved in the Senate (37-19) on May 21 and in the House (62-53) on April 23, as well the amendments proposed by Gov. Bruce Rauner when he vetoed the bill and returned it to the legislature on August 14.

“This is a reasonable proposal that is long overdue,” Rep. Cassidy said. “It needs to happen, and I am hopeful that we can make it happen quickly since it’s already such familiar territory for legislators and the governor.”

Members of the Illinois faith community joined Rep. Cassidy at the news conference to voice support for the bill. More than 50 clergy from around the state have signed a Religious Declaration of Clergy for a New Drug Policy, which includes support for civil rather than criminal sanctions for marijuana possession.

Global: Religious Leaders Urge UN To Stand By Call For Decriminalization of Drugs

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The Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, Inc. (SDPC) is urging the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime to stand by their call for decriminalization of drug use and possession in the United States and around the world.

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) appeared set to call on governments to end the criminalization of drug use and possession, according to DPA Honorary Board Member Richard Branson -- but in a dramatic turn of events withdrew its briefing paper under pressure from at least one country, according to the BBC.

“Locking up people for non-violent drug use is inhumane, immoral and ineffective, said Dr. Iva Carruthers, general secretary of the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference. “At the center of SDPC’s thrust is our belief that there needs to be greater emphasis on policies that focus on Harm Reduction over criminalization.”

SDPC, an interdenominational network of African American congregations, clergy and lay leaders is actively engaged in organizing multifaith activities for the upcoming 2016 UN General Assembly Special Session on global drug policy.

In a recent meeting with a multifaith group of leaders in early October, SDPC outlined a working paper to be submitted to the United Nations General Assembly Special Session in April, 2016. That paper argues for a shift in the ideology and practice in the United States concerning drug use and possession.

Pennsylvania: Religious Leaders Announce Support For Medical Marijuana

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A group of Pennsylvania religious leaders will announce their support for medical marijuana legislation Wednesday at a news conference at 11 a.m. ET on the Lt. Governor’s Balcony in the Pennsylvania State Capitol. They will then visit with lawmakers to convey their support in person.

A diverse group of more than 50 clergy members in Pennsylvania have signed a statement urging state lawmakers to adopt a comprehensive medical marijuana law this year. A list of signers will be posted Wednesday at http://www.ClergyForCompassion.com.

“We cannot remain silent while people in pain and anguish are deprived of a viable, safe, and responsible remedy,” the statement reads. “While we may practice different faiths and come from different communities, we share the same commitment to improving the broader community through the practice of humanity, healing, mercy, and compassion. That is why, as leaders within our respective communities of faith, we are joining together to encourage the Pennsylvania General Assembly to adopt sensible, comprehensive medical cannabis legislation.”

Speakers at the news conference will include Pastor Shawn Berkebile of Abbotstown, Rev. Theodore Cockley of Williamsport, Rabbi George Stern of Philadelphia, and Pastor Bonnie Whittier of Codorus. They will be joined by Rev. Alexander Sharp of Clergy for a New Drug Policy, which is rallying clergy nationwide in support of sensible medical marijuana legislation.

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