Illinois Closer to Legalizing Medical Marijuana

Stricter rules could help legalize cannabis for people with cancer and HIV/AIDS

By Britni Day
|  Thursday, Apr 28, 2011  |  Updated 2:51 PM CDT
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Illinois Closer to Legalizing Medical Marijuana

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Medical marijuana could soon be a reality in Illinois.

The House on Wednesday passed an amendment that brings the state one step closer to legalizing cannabis for the purpose of easing side effects of debilitating medical conditions, the Chicago Tribune reports.

The adopted amendment says medical marijuana would be distributed from not-for-profit dispensaries and employees who sell the drug for non-medical purposes would face harsher penalties. 

In January, the legalization bill sponsored by Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie) was approved by a narrow vote by the House committee.

Fifteen other states have laws allowing the use of marijuana for medical purposes, though it's not by the federal government as a medicine. Lang said Illinois' version would be among the strictest in the nation.

The measure has been debated across the country. Opponents say it tampers with drug-free work environments and that there isn't enough medical proof about medical marijuana being used safely and effectively. Supporters say there solid evidence exists, but large clinical trials haven't been completed for Food and Drug Administration approval. 

Laws allowing doctors to prescribe medical marijuana in pill or plant form to treat medical conditions have been on the books in Illinois since the late 1970s. The doctor must first get approval from both the Department of Human Services and the state police.

Lang says he knows of the law but that his proposal is more effective. His version would legalize the use of medical marijuana for three years, at the end of which a review of the law's performance would be held.  

Lawmakers could vote as early as next week. 

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