By Steve Elliott
The Illinois House of Representatives on Wednesday approved on a 61-57 vote legislation that would allow patients with serious illnesses, such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, and HIV/AIDS, to obtain and use marijuana for medical purposes with their doctors’ approval. This marks the first time the House has approved such a measure.
The bill will now be sent to the Senate, which approved a less restrictive version of the bill in 2009.
“I have been diagnosed with an aggressive and incurable cancer that in all likelihood will someday take my life,” said Jessica Bauer, a 27-year-old Rockford resident with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. “I would like to live out the rest of my days with dignity and enjoy what time I have left with my 5-year-old daughter.
“Medical marijuana allows me to do that,” she said. “I shouldn’t have to live in fear of arrest for using it or have to resort to the illicit market to obtain it.”
House Bill 1, sponsored by Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie), would allow Illinois residents with certain medical conditions to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana, which they would be able to access from one of up to 60 dispensing centers regulated by the Illinois Department of Licensing and Professional Regulation. Marijuana would be grown by one of up to 22 cultivation centers, one per state police district, regulated by the Illinois Department of Agriculture.
Eighteen states allow patients with qualifying conditions to use medical marijuana with recommendations from their physicians. Similar legislation has been introduced in 14 additional states this year, and it is anticipated in three additional states.
“There is a scientific consensus that marijuana is a safe and effective treatment for nausea, pain, loss of appetite, and other symptoms of debilitating illnesses,” said Dan Riffle, deputy director of government relations for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). “It should be up to medical professionals, not law enforcement professionals, to decide whether medical marijuana is the right treatment for their patients.”