Illinois Is Closer to Legalizing Medical Marijuana
by Comfortably Numb
Encouraging news for patients in Illinois! On April 17, 2013 House Bill 1, the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act, passed the Illinois House of Representatives on Wednesday, April 17, 2013. The House voted 61-57 to permit the medicinal use of marijuana in a move that eventually could make Illinois the 19th state to allow medical marijuana. HB1 was introduced by Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie) on Jan. 6, 2013.
The House vote came after an appeal from Rep. Lang, who has been trying for years to get this type of measure passed. “This effort has been about the patients ... (and) providing them a quality of life,” Lang told the chamber before the vote.” He also stated “It’s about compassion. The question is, will we get beyond the political?” Of interest and a valid argument Rep. Lang also noted that “no one has ever died of a marijuana overdose.”
Some of the good news from Wednesday’s vote was that it passed on the strength of some representatives who have opposed it in the past, including Rep. Jay Hoffman (D-Belleville), who stated in the floor debate: “This isn’t legalization of marijuana. This is legalization of medical marijuana.” He also said the he was convinced by the need to “do something to stop the pain and suffering of the sick.”
HB1 would create a four-year pilot program that allows people who are suffering from specific medical conditions, such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, and HIV/AIDS, to use medical marijuana upon the recommendation of their doctors. Those qualified patients would then be able to obtain marijuana from one of up to 60 dispensaries, which would acquire their marijuana from up to 22 cultivation centers. The Illinois Department of Agriculture, Department of Health, and Department of Financial & Professional Regulation would be the entities that would regulate the cultivation, acquisition, and distribution of marijuana.
Under HB1, users, growers and sellers would have to undergo fingerprinting and a criminal background check. It would allow employers and landlords to bar medicinal marijuana use in their workplaces and housing or buildings. Also, patients would be subject to field sobriety tests if police suspect that they might be driving under the influence of medical cannabis which could result in the patient losing their driving privileges.
Although the bill’s critics worried the four-year pilot program, that would take effect next January, although pave the way for a broader legalization of marijuana and might even encourage more hardcore drug use among Illinoisans, particularly youth. However, Rep. Lang defended his legislation, saying the state was “turning granny into a criminal” because medical cannabis couldn’t be obtained legally by those in need. Eventually, a bi-partisan bloc of House members argued rightfully that marijuana represents a better and less debilitating treatment option for sick friends or relatives than narcotics. The bill now goes before the Illinois Senate, and if passed to the governor, who has indicated that he would be open to signing such a bill.
HB1 is not the only bill this congressional session in Illinois. Two other bills are currently being considered in the House.
HB 2332 is a bill that would allow local governments and give them the authority to decriminalize the possession of marijuana. HB2332, if passed, would allow counties and municipalities to amend their own local laws to reduce the penalties, for minor marijuana possession offenses of up to 15 grams of marijuana, to a fine only misdemeanor. At last report, HB2332 was approved by the House Judiciary Committee by a 9-5 vote, and is now awaiting action from the full House of Representatives.
HB2668 is a bill that would legalize the licensed cultivation of industrial hemp. This bill has been approved by the Illinois House Agriculture and Conservation Committee by a 9-8 vote. HB2668 now awaits action from the full House of Representatives.
I urge any Illinois residents to contact their legislators to support these bills!