As expected Gov. Pat Quinn on Thursday signed legislation laced with strict regulations to make Illinois the 20th state to legalize medical marijuana.
"I feel that this is something, whatever faith we practice, we all believe that helping those who are sick, helping them recover and also helping them deal with pain, that's a tenet in every faith and every religion," Quinn said Thursday. "So we're really I think doing the right thing in Illinois."
According to the proposal, a person can be prescribed no more than 2.5 ounces of marijuana over two weeks, and the prescribing doctor must have a previous history of treating the patient. Medical marijuana also can only be purchased from one of 60 state-regulated dispensing centers that would be under 24-hour surveillance, and employees at the centers must undergo criminal background checks.
The state House and Senate both approved a proposal this spring that lets doctors prescribe marijuana to terminally ill patients who suffer from one of 42 listed illnesses including cancer and HIV.
"This bill is a very carefully drafted bill to make sure it's done right, and we want to make sure it's always done right in Illinois," Quinn said, noting, "the reason I'm signing the bill is because it is so tightly and properly drafted."
Quinn initially called the proposal "an important bill" but for the most part remained mum on the issue after the Senate's 35-21 vote.
He said he would talk to veterans about the importance of medical marijuana to their pain management and the benefits of the bill. Opponents say the bill encourages recreational use of marijuana by those the bill wasn't meant for and some say it's dangerous for patients.
Quinn joined Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie), veterans and those fighting chronic illnesses who have lobbied state lawmakers for years to sign the bill the governor said was carefully drafted and will help people dealing with severe pain.
The legislation goes into effect Jan. 1, 2014.
This isn't the state's first discussion of the drug. The Chicago City Council approved a plan last summer that lets officers issue pot tickets instead of making arrests for possession of 15 grams of marijuana or less.
Under the new policy, officers have the option of issuing a ticket to someone, rather than placing them under arrest. Anyone caught with pot under the age of 17 or without proper identification is still arrested, as are those caught smoking pot in public or possessing marijuana in or near a school or park.
In the first four months, Chicago Police issued almost 400 tickets and made $98,000 in fines.