Illinois Senate approves medical marijuana bill
By Deanna Bellandi
Associated Press Writer | Thursday, May 28, 2009 | (10 comment(s))
SPRINGFIELD | Efforts to legalize medical marijuana in Illinois took a big step forward Wednesday when the state Senate approved a plan to let sick people use pot for relief from diseases like cancer, AIDS and multiple sclerosis.
The Illinois Senate voted 30-28 and the bill now goes to the Illinois House. A House committee passed a similar measure earlier this year.
“One of the purposes of this bill is to avoid the situation where someone suffering has to go to the criminal element to buy this marijuana substance,” said the sponsor, Sen. Bill Haine, an Alton Democrat and former prosecutor.
Medical marijuana advocates say the drug can ease pain without the side effects of heavier prescription drugs and can reduce nausea from treatments like chemotherapy.
The measure, which is good for three years, would create an Illinois Department of Public Health registry card for people eligible for the medical marijuana. The amount of marijuana allowed would be seven plants or two ounces of the dried drug.
Other diseases that would make people eligible to use medical marijuana include the severe digestive disorder Crohn’s disease, hepatitis C and ALS, an incurable degenerative disorder also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Critics argue allowing medical marijuana would make it harder for police to enforce other marijuana laws and would be a step toward wholesale legalization of pot.
“I think that we need to be very careful before we go down this road,” said Sen. Brad Burzynski, R-Clare.
If a medical marijuana bill is eventually signed into law, Illinois would join 13 other states, including California, that have such measures in place, said Bruce Mirken, spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project.
“This sets up a procedure by which they can get what they need much more safely, which will be safer for the community, too. Less business going to criminals is probably a good thing. I’m kind of old fashioned that way,” Mirken said.
Some state senators who backed the measure told stories about how their own relatives had suffered because of debilitating or terminal illness.
“This is truly about compassion and about people who are suffering from chronic diseases,” said Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago.
Illinois first authorized medical marijuana in 1978 but the law has been in limbo because the Public Health Department never implemented it.