Illinois: Medical Marijuana Bill Clears Senate Committee Vote

(Graphic: The Daily Chronic)By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A bill which would legalize the medicinal use of marijuana in Illinois cleared a key Senate committee vote on Wednesday.

The medical marijuana bill was approved on a 10-5 vote by the Senate Executive Committee late Wednesday night, reports Monique Garcia at the Chicago Tribune.

The bill was approved over the objections of members of the law enforcement community, who claimed the bill wouldn't prevent medical marijuana patients from driving while under the influence of cannabis. (Statistics from states where medical marijuana is legal has shown they have fewer fatal auto accidents than before medicinal cannabis laws were passed.)

The bill now goes to the full Senate, which approved similar legislation in 2009. The proposal already cleared the Illinois House last month, and Gov. Pat Quinn has said he is "open minded" on the subject.

Dan Riffle, deputy director of government relations for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), applauded the Senate Executive Committee's vote. "We hope their colleagues will agree that seriously ill people who benefit from medical marijuana should not have to risk being arrested and prosecuted," Riffle said.

Sponsoring Sen. Bill Haine (D-Alton) said the rules were the toughest in the nation. Haine, a former State's Attorney, said the bill is "not an opening to legalization" of recreational marijuana.

The measure advanced on Wednesday despite the concerns of some law enforcement officials who claimed it could result in medical marijuana patients driving while impaired.

It would establish a four-year pilot program during which patients with debilitating diseases including cancer, HIV and multiple sclerosis could get ID cards enabling them to buy up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana from one of 60 state-licensed dispensaries.

If the full Senate passes the bill and the governor signs it, Illinois would become the 19th state in the U.S. to legalize medicinal cannabis. Rep. Lou Lang, who sponsors the medical marijuana bill, said it is "model legislation for the country."

(Graphic: The Daily Chronic)