Legalized Marijuana Warning Delivered to Illinois Lawmakers by Mental Health Advocates: Pay Up

(Springfield, IL) – A top mental health advocate group has delivered a strong warning to Illinois lawmakers on the legalization of marijuana: prepare to boost mental health, drug prevention and treatment funding to address demand surge for behavioral health services with any legalization law.

At the Illinois Senate’s April 10thbudget hearing for the Illinois Department of Human Services, Illinois Association for Behavioral Health CEO Sara Howe made clear to Senators that marijuana legalization will come with a behavioral healthcare impact, particularly on teens, and lawmakers must be ready to pony up the money to pay for care.

“According to data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the average rate of regular teen marijuana use in the legalized states of Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington is 30% higher than the U.S. rate as a whole,” according to Howe’s written testimony. “The same data found that almost one-third of all 18-25-year old individuals in legalized marijuana states used marijuana in the past month, up from around one-fifth 10 years ago.”

Howe told Senators that local behavioral health providers are ready to help shape a responsible marijuana legalization bill, but lawmakers and Governor JB Pritzker need to fund care and warned against being naïve.

“IABH members stand ready to assist you in crafting a well thought out and carefully implemented policy,” Howe stated in testimony. “However, we cannot and under no circumstances should be expected to, prevent or treat the increase in substance use or mental health disorder diagnoseswithout a significant and permanent increase in monetary resources – to not do so is simply naïve and ignores the reality of what will occur in communities.”

Lawmakers are expected to formally introduce marijuana legalization legislation after the legislature returns to Springfield on April 30.

Sara Howe, sara@ilabh.org

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