By Kerry Lester and Mike Riopell , published on The Daily Herald
A plan to legalize medical marijuana went down in smoke Tuesday in the Illinois House.
The legislation would have let Illinois residents with certain ailments such as cancer, glaucoma or Alzheimer’s disease get a prescription from a doctor to possess marijuana plants.
But opponents decried the plan as one that would encourage marijuana use by people who really didn’t need it.
State Rep. Sandy Cole, a Grayslake Republican, said the proposal didn’t focus enough on diseases.
“It doesn’t talk about disease management,” she said. “It talks about how much dope you can have.”
The effort even drew former daytime talk-show host Montel Williams to the Capitol. Williams has multiple sclerosis and is a vocal supporter of the idea that marijuana can help ease some patients’ pain.
“This is a discussion that should take place between a doctor and a patient,” Williams said.
The legislation got as many as 56 votes of the 60 it needed for approval before vote totals were cleared.
Dan Linn, a Lake County native and executive director of the Illinois Cannabis Patients Association, noted the nonprofit has been working on the issue for the past decade.
“Even if it does pass, it’ll be bittersweet,” he said.
The Patients Association is focused on legally protecting medical marijuana patients in the state and educating lawmakers and the general public about the issue.
Linn first became involved with the cause after serving as a personal assistant and caregiver for a quadriplegic friend.
His friend, Linn said, was prescribed the maximum dosage of medication to help cope with muscle spasms, but was still in pain. “He found that cannabis would help calm down the spasms.”
Linn described the group’s lobbying efforts as “emotionally difficult to see how much politics is involved. You have lawmakers who might personally support the issue but not publicly support it because the political timing isn’t right. It’s disappointing.”
He believes there is a “lot of misinformation out there” surrounding the legislation, which would establish a pilot program of patients who are diagnosed with “debilitating medical conditions” to use a limited amount of cannabis plants.
“Details are significantly different from (laws) in California and Colorado, and yet they’ll say our program is going to be more widely abused.”
Though the legislation was defeated, it could come up for future votes if supporters find several more lawmakers to vote “yes.”