Illinois Moves Closer To Legalizing Medical Marijuana
By Steve Elliott | Friday, April 29, 2011
Once again, Illinois is moving tantalizingly close to legalizing medical marijuana.
The state House is moving closer to making medicinal cannabis available for patients to ease the side effects of debilitating medical conditions, reports Todd Wilson at the Chicago Tribune.
A stricter set of rules and a surprise political alliance are helping to build the momentum for the medical marijuana effort in Illinois, long thwarted despite coming within a four votes of passing the Legislature in January.
According to the new, more restrictive language in the bill, medical marijuana would be distributed from nonprofit dispensaries, and that those who divert cannabis for non-medical purposes would face harsher penalties, reports Britni Day at NBC Chicago.
Progressive lawmakers are trying to make cannabis available for people seeking relief from the symptoms of multiple sclerosis, cancer, HIV/AIDS and other serious illnesses.
Of course, any time the supposed Demon Weed is mentioned, even in a medical context, a predictable howl of indignation arises from conservatives who are still stuck in the 20th Century Reefer Madness mentality. Opponents in Illinois claim the measure will be the first step toward legalizing marijuana entirely, and raise the tired specter of “ending up like California,” where the easy availability of pot to anyone with a doctor’s note is somehow supposed to be a bad thing.
Under the proposed Illinois legislation, pot would be dispensed from a limited number of state-licensed, highly regulated nonprofits. Penalties including potential prison time would discourage attempts to divert medical marijuana onto the street.
Just this past January, medical marijuana fell only four votes short during a lame-duck session where lawmakers approved other controversial measures as a big income-tax increase, civil unions for same-sex couples and abolishing the death penalty.
But those lame-duck lawmakers are no longer in office, and the measure needs to pass the House, the Senate and be signed by Governor Pat Quinn to become law.
This time, House Republican Leader Tom Cross, who had opposed medical marijuana, has come on board after being approached by several constituents who asked him to allow marijuana use for “the worst-of-the-worst medical conditions,” his spokeswoman said.
The great Rep. Lou Lang, sponsor of the bill who has championed medical marijuana for three years, said he thinks he can finally pass a medical marijuana bill out of the House. The Senate approved a less restrictive version of the bill last year.
Under its present form, sponsors of the Illinois bill are calling it “the most restrictive in the nation.”
Whatever form the final bill takes, there are suffering patients in Illinois who have already waited for years for the state to stop regarding them as drug criminals.
You may have heard that Illinois has “already legalized medical marijuana” back in the 1970s. That’s not precisely true, in practical terms.
A state human services spokeswoman and a state medical society representative say they’re not aware that any doctor has ever asked permission to prescribe marijuana in Illinois.
Lang, the House sponsor, said he’s aware of the existing law, but said his proposal is a tighter and more workable measure.
“What we have done is take the best ideas on the topic from America and in Illinois during debate to gauge the tolerance of colleagues and make the best and tightest bill in the country,” Lang said.
“How do you turn down the people who are sick? Who are in pain? People who haven’t been able to have a quality life,” Lang said, reports George Siefo at the Morton Grove Patch. “This is not a bill about drugs. This is a bill about health care.”
Lang’s version would legalize the use of medical marijuana for three years, at the end of which a review of the law’s performance would be held.
Lawmakers could vote as early as next week.