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Illinois House Approves Medical Marijuana Bill

Senate to take up proposal, Quinn unsure whether he would sign it.

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    The Illinois House of Representatives approved legislation that would allow medical marijuana in the state under certain circumstances.

    The bill passed 61-57, and now moves on to the Senate.

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    If passed, the bill will allow Illinois residents with certain medical conditions to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana, which they could only buy from one of up to 60 dispensing centers regulated by the Illinois Department of Licensing and Professional Regulation. Twenty-two cultivation centers would be allow to grow it.

    Patients would be prohibited from growing their own marijuana, and both patients, caregivers would have to undergo a background check and physicians would have to have had an existing relationship with a patient in order to prescribe marijuana.

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    Gov. Pat Quinn said last week his staff members have been involved in drafting the bill but that he hasn't made a final decision on whether he would sign it, saying "We'll take a look at the final product."

    Nearly 250 Illinois physicians endorsed the proposal Tuesday, hoping to give a boost to the legislation one day before the anticipated vote.

    Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, and other supporters have been trying to legalize medical marijuana for several years. A measure passed the Senate in 2009 but fell short in the House, where just six Republicans voted yes. No bill since then has made it to a floor vote in either chamber.

    Some lawmakers who objected to the bill worried that people who don't need the drug will find a way to obtain it, and that the legislation would open the door to further legalization of marijuana, as has occurred in places like Colorado.

    Dan Riffle, deputy director of government operations for the Marijuana Policy Project, countered that the legislation is more restrictive than medical marijuana laws that exist in 18 other states.