Project Summary

What are the public health harms and benefits associated with the legalization of recreational cannabis in Illinois since enactment of the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act?

Primary Research Question

The Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act (Public Act 101-0027) supports the use of funds allocated to the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS)/Division of Substance Use Prevention and Recovery (SUPR) and the Division of Mental Health Services (DMH) to evaluate the public health impacts of legalizing adult recreational cannabis use. IDHS subsequently contracted with the Jane Addams College of Social Work (JACSW) at the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) through an Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) to obtain and analyze data to assess potential public health effects - both beneficial as well as harmful - of legalizing recreational cannabis. Dr. James Swartz at UIC/JACSW is the project Principal Investigator. He is assisted by Ms. Dana Franceschini, who is a doctoral student at UIC/JACSW and Project Coordinator.

By the CRTA statute, IDHS is required to submit an annual report to the Illinois Adult Use Cannabis Health Advisory Committee that details the social and public health consequences of legalizing recreational cannabis. As a starting point, the CRTA enumerated a minimum set of public health indicators that reasonably could be affected by wider and/or more frequent use of cannabis by Illinois residents, and which therefore should be documented and presented in the Advisory Committee annual reports.

The selection of data and analyses presented in the annual reports are guided by the primary research question: What are the public health harms and benefits associated with the legalization of recreational cannabis in Illinois since enactment of the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act? Accordingly, we are examining whether recreational cannabis use has had differential effects geographically within Illinois and the effects on different types of users such as youth ages 12 to 17; children under the age of 12 (to assess the incidence of poisonings); use among pregnant and perinatal women; use among persons with a serious mental illness (SMI); use among sexual and racial/ethnic minorities; and the incidence of traffic fatalities where cannabis was used by the driver. We are also monitoring potential beneficial effects of medical cannabis such as decreases in the use of other drugs, particularly opioids and benzodiazepines, as medical cannabis can be prescribed for analgesic and anxiolytic purposes in lieu of these drugs.

As a related but separate arm of the project, we have also been charged with evaluating programs funded by cannabis tax revenue that IDHS has initiated or expanded. These programs are intended to address the broader socioeconomic impacts and inequities (e.g., homelessness, trauma, unemployment) caused by the decades-long War on Drugs. The project team includes co-investigators who are tasked with evaluating and reporting on each program as it is developed and implemented. The co-investigative team includes Dr. Branden McLeod, Dr. Sara Beeler, and Dr. Kathryn Bocanegra at UIC/JACSW as well as Dr. Aaron Gottlieb and Dr. Harold Pollack at the University of Chicago and Dr. Amy Watson at Wayne State University. The Co-I's have responsibility for designing and conducting evaluation studies of each of the programs funded by the CRTA . Staff at the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago - led by Ms. Adrienne Call and Ms. Nora Marino - assist the project team by providing information technology and statistical support services, by consulting on program evaluation methodology, and by working with the co-Investigative team to design and carry out surveys and qualitative interviews and focus groups necessary to the evaluation studies.

Research Team

Dr. James A Swartz, PH.D - Headshot

Dr. James A Swartz, PH.D


Dana Franceschini, AM, LCSW - Headshot

Dana Franceschini, AM, LCSW

Project Coordinator

Kamryn Scamperle - Headshot

Kamryn Scamperle

Programmer Analyst

Yiran Han - Headshot

Yiran Han

Programmer Analyst

Shawn Parra - Headshot

Shawn Parra

Research Assistant

Brandon McCleod - Headshot

Brandon McCleod

Co-Investigator, University of Illinois at Chicago

Sara Beeler - Headshot

Sara Beeler

Co-Investigator, University of Illinois at Chicago

Katherine Bocanegra - Headshot

Katherine Bocanegra

Co-Investigator, University of Illinois at Chicago

Harold Pollack - Headshot

Harold Pollack

Co-Investigator, University of Chicago

Andrew Foell - Headshot

Andrew Foell, PhD, MSW, MPP

Co-Investigator, University of Chicago

Amy Watson - Headshot

Amy Watson

Co-Investigator, Wayne State University


NORC at the University of Chicago is partnering with the University of Illinois Chicago to support this evaluation.

Anthony Bedward - Headshot

Anthony Bedward


Steven Binns - Headshot

Steven Binns


Adrienne Call - Headshot

Adrienne Call


Sherry Emery - Headshot

Sherry Emery


Miao Feng - Headshot

Miao Feng


Alex Kresovich - Headshot

Alex Kresovich


Nora Marino - Headshot

Nora Marino


Lisa Rosenberger - Headshot

Lisa Rosenberger


Abby Wolk - Headshot

Abby Wolk