Ill. House Committee OKs Medi-Pot

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- People suffering from cancer, AIDS and other diseases could turn to marijuana for pain relief under a plan approved Wednesday by an Illinois House committee despite claims that it would be a step toward legalizing pot.

Under the legislation, people with a doctor's permission would be eligible for a state registry card allowing up to seven marijuana plants in their homes and 2 ounces of "usable cannabis." The measure is written to expire after three years.

Advocates say marijuana eases pain without the side effects of heavier drugs and reduces nausea from chemotherapy.

"There is needless suffering going on out there," said the sponsor, Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie. "Everything else is a sideshow."

But Rep. Patricia Bellock, R-Hinsdale, said the bill raises serious questions. Will it be misused by people who don't really have a medical need for marijuana? Would it open the door to outright legalization of pot use in Illinois?

"It is the No. 1 drug that introduces young people to other drugs," said Bellock, who voted against the measure in the Human Services Committee.

Still, HB2514 passed 4-3 and now goes to the House floor.

Thirteen states already have medical marijuana laws that preclude a criminal conviction for use, according to the Marijuana Policy Project.

Similar legislation was approved by a state Senate committee last year, but the sponsor never found enough support to call it for a vote. That sponsor, John Cullerton, is now Senate president, so the latest proposal should have an influential supporter if it ever reaches the Senate.

Lang called it a "difficult but not impossible bill to pass" in the House, even as a three-year experiment.

Bellock said she doesn't object in principle to allowing the use of marijuana for medical reasons, but she fears this plan is too lax. She said a version where the pot is handled by pharmacists would reduce the chance of abuse.

Bellock also questioned whether Illinois could take the step while marijuana remains illegal under federal law.

Technically, Illinois authorized medical marijuana in 1978. But implementation was left to the Public Health Department and it never took action, so the law has been in limbo.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
Contact Us