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Thursday, May 23, 2013 12:19 pm

Medical marijuana closer to legalization

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As Illinois waits for Gov. Pat Quinn’s decision on the medical marijuana bill, many citizens are wondering how they will be affected if he signs it into law.

The Illinois Senate last week approved legalization of medical marijuana, 31-25.

If the bill becomes law, Illinois will join more than 20 states allowing medical marijuana.

The bill would allow people suffering from specific medical conditions, such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS, and rheumatoid arthritis to use medical marijuana upon a doctor’s recommendation.

Senate sponsor William Haine, D-Alton, says the bill would have some of the toughest restrictions on medical marijuana in the country. He hopes the strict requirements would prevent marijuana from getting into the hands of those who don’t need it.

Qualified patients would be able to obtain marijuana from one of up to 60 dispensaries, which would acquire marijuana from up to 22 cultivation centers.

The Illinois Department of Public Health would be responsible for developing and maintaining a registry of users and caregivers, distributing educational materials about the risk associated with abuse of marijuana and other drugs, and developing rules for the consumption of marijuana food products.

The Department of Agriculture would oversee the registration of cultivation centers throughout the state.

The Department of Financial and Professional Regulation would help regulate the cultivation, acquisition and distribution of marijuana.

During an exchange with reporters after a Senate hearing, Haine said, “It’s a plant and it has medical uses to relieve pain and that’s been known for decades. We have to see that those uses are available to those who are suffering and it’s not going to be used for those who want to abuse it to simply have recreational use and destroy the program.”

The four-year pilot program must be renewed by the General Assembly as if it were a new bill. This would allow adjustments and assessment of the program, according to Haine.

As approved by the General Assembly, the bill would restrict use of medical marijuana in places such as correctional facilities, private residences used for child care, motor vehicles, preschools, primary or secondary schools and places where smoking is prohibited.  

Those permitted to use medical marijuana would be limited to 2.5 ounces for a 14-day period. If more is needed they would need permission from the Department of Public Health.

Patients with approval for medical marijuana would not be subject to searches as long as they can provide the necessary identification and are not under the influence while performing work-related activities.

Haine said registered users will not be subject to search by the police when in public as long as their marijuana is kept in a closed container.

Physicians who plan to prescribe medical marijuana must be licensed under the Medical Practice Act of 1987 and hold a controlled substance license under Act 3 of the Illinois Controlled Substance Act.

In addition no school, employee or landlord may discriminate against a patient registered for medical marijuana.

Sen. Linda Holmes, D-Aurora, who has multiple sclerosis, said current restrictions on marijuana are preventing clinical studies necessary for conducting research on the potential benefits of marijuana.

Holmes voted in support of the bill but said she does not plan to become a registered user.

“The people who have approached me that have MS talked about the importance of passing the bill. The reason is that it relieves some of the horrible debilitating symptoms of MS. It relieves the spasticity [muscle tightness], it relieves the pain and it relieves some of the fatigue. Pain relief is probably the most well-known benefit of medical marijuana.”

Contact Jacqueline Muhammad at intern@illinoistimes.com.

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