SPRINGFIELD, IL – A bill to allow Illinois residents to use medical marijuana in the treatment of their debilitating medical conditions is gaining the support of lawmakers at the State House, has cleared several committees, and could see a third reading, followed by debate and a vote, on the floor of the House this week.
The bill, House Bill 1, introduced by Deputy Majority Leader Lou Lang (D-Skokie), has quietly cleared several committees in April, and an amended version could see a vote as early as Thursday afternoon, although a vote next week is more likely.
Both the House Human Services Committee and House Rules Committee have recommended the bill’s passage, with minor amendments.
The most significant amendment, which changes the bill from taking effect immediately after passage to January 1, 2014, was approved Wednesday.
If passed, the bill would create a four-year pilot program to allow people suffering from specific medical conditions, such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, and HIV/AIDS, to use medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it.
“This is clearly model legislation for the country if we pass it,” said state Rep. Lang. ”Why would we not help these people under very controlled circumstances?”
Qualified patients would be able to obtain marijuana from one of up to 60 dispensaries, which would acquire marijuana from up to 22 cultivation centers.
The Illinois Department of Agriculture, Department of Health, and Department of Financial & Professional Regulation would regulate the cultivation, acquisition, and distribution of marijuana.
“Seriously ill people who receive significant relief from their use of marijuana should not be treated like criminals,” said Dan Riffle of the Marijuana Policy Project. ”If their doctors believe treating their conditions with medical marijuana will improve the quality of their lives, they should not have to risk being arrested and prosecuted.
“Marijuana is more effective, less addictive, and poses fewer and less severe side effects than many of the narcotics they are currently being prescribed. Patients with serious illnesses should be allowed to make personal medical decisions based on the advice of their physicians, without interference by law enforcement or government officials who lack medical training and expertise.”
Currently, 18 states and the District of Columbia allow the medical use of Marijuana. The Maryland legislature voted to approve a bill that would create a medical marijuana program through the state’s research hospitals, but that bill has yet to be approved by the Governor, and has been heavily criticized by medical marijuana patient groups who are calling Maryland the “18 1/2″ medical marijuana state.