Illinois: Governor To Sign Bill Legalizing Medical Marijuana Today
By Steve Elliott
It's been a long time coming, and a hard fight. Medical marijuana advocates have made it to the one-yard-line several times, only to be turned back. But today, August 1, 2013, at 11:30 a.m. local time, Governor Pat Quinn signed a bill which legalizes medical marijuana in Illinois.
Democratic Gov. Quinn signed the bill in a ceremony at the University of Chicago, reports Ray Long at the Chicago Tribune. The four-year trial program will be the strictest medicinal cannabis law in the nation, according to supporters.
Under the law, medical marijuana can be authorized for patients with nausea from cancer treatment, with multiple sclerosis, and with AIDS.
Quinn's signature will make Illinois the 20th state (plus the District of Columbia) that have legalized cannabis for medicinal uses, according to the National Conference on State Legislatures.
For years, the medical marijuana bill had fallen short at the Capitol, especially in the House. But this spring, the tireless Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie) was able to get together the votes needed to send the bill to the Illinois Senate, where a similar, but less restrictive, bill had passed in previous years.
"Our goal from the beginning was to provide a better quality of life for some very sick people in Illinois," Lang said. "When the governor signs the bill, it'll be a signal to many people that the state of Illinois still has a good deal of compassion, a good deal of concern for those of us, under a doctor's care, who wish to try a new type of therapy ... to simply feel better."
Gov. Quinn had indicated he'd keep an "open mind" on the bill as it gained momentum. Advocates took that as a good sign from a Democratic governor who's shown his liberal philosophy on issues from abolishing the death penalty to supporting gay marriage. The governor mentioned encountering a military veteran who said marijuana provided him with relief from war wounds.
The new law will take effect January 1, 2014. Patients will be authorized to possess no more than 2.5 ounces of marijuana each two weeks. The authorizing physician will be required to have a "prior and ongoing" relationship with the patient, and must find that the patient has one of a few dozen serious or chronic conditions for which marijuana can be authorized.
Patients will have to buy their cannabis from one of 60 dispensaries throughout the state; unfortunately, they won't be allowed to grow their own. Dispensary employees will undergo criminal background checks; the stores will be under 24-hour camera surveillance, and patients will carry cards indicating how much they've bought, to "prevent stockpiling."
Marijuana will be grown indoors at 22 secured cultivation centers registered with the state.