Illinois House Approves Medical Marijuana Measure, April 17, 2013

SPRINGFIELD—(ENEWSPF)—April 17, 2013. Today, the Illinois House on a 61 – 57 vote, approved a medical marijuana measure. The bill has been sent to the Senate for further action. The Senate previously passed a similar measure.

The legislation, sponsored by Representative Lou Lang (D-Skokie) sets ups a four-year pilot program that is considered to be the most restrictive in the nation. To date, seventeen states and the District of Columbia allow medical marijuana.

The Illinois legislation would make a narrow exception to Illinois’ criminal laws to prevent seriously ill patients from being arrested and jailed for doctor-advised medical use of marijuana.

The Illinois Health Department would issue medical marijuana ID cards. To qualify for an ID card, a patient would have to submit to the Health Department a physician’s written certification that the patient would likely receive therapeutic or palliative benefit from marijuana and that the patient has a qualifying condition such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C, or spinal cord disease. Unlike other states’ laws, general “pain” is not a qualifying condition. Only a physician with whom the patient has a pre-existing, ongoing relationship, and who is treating the patient for the underlying condition, would be able to provide a certification.

Patients would be allowed to have no more than 2.5 ounces of marijuana every two weeks. Patients will be able to obtain their medical marijuana from a state-licensed dispensing organization, which in turn can only obtain marijuana from state-registered cultivation centers. Patients will not be able to grow marijuana at home.

No one with a felony drug conviction would be able to participate. The Department of Public Health, Financial and Professional Regulation, and Agriculture would set rules on security, record keeping and oversight. Medical marijuana cultivation centers and dispensing organizations will be subject to inspections, and all of their staff would have to register with the state and be subject to background checks.

The bill also precludes the public use of marijuana and driving under the influence. The bill also specifies that employers can maintain drug-free workplace policies and discipline employees who are impaired at work or possess marijuana in the workplace.

Governor Quinn said today that he is “open-minded” on the issue. Quinn said that he has heard stories from veterans that provide compelling reasons to use marijuana for pain relief.

Illinois NORML says the bill is not perfect but it is a step in right direction for helping seriously ill people.