Illinois residents with chronic health conditions which can be alleviated by marijuana are urging state lawmakers to let their state join 14 others, including Michigan and New Jersey, that have legalized cannabis use for medicinal purposes.
The Illinois House adjourned Friday before acting on legislation legalizing medical marijuana which has already passed the state Senate, reports Dean Olsen at The State Journal-Register. But advocates say they will continue to push for Senate Bill 1381, which they say safeguards against abuse of medical marijuana and criminal involvement in growing and distributing the herb.
The usual opponents, including, of course, law enforcement organizations, have lined up in opposition to the bill, citing the same, tired old arguments against medical marijuana.
"There's a lot of stuff in marijuana that's not good for you," claimed Limey Nargelenas, a lobbyist for the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police.
"It's like people taking meth," Nargelenas said in one of the most ridiculous statements ever made about medical pot. "People feel a lot better after ingesting methamphetamine."
"We believe you're putting it in the hands of people interested in being responsible citizens," said Brian Mueller, director of Illinois Safe Access, based in Chicago.
Supporters of the bill say studies published in peer-reviewed journals show that cannabis provides medicinal relief to patients with cancer, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, Crohn's disease and other serious conditions.
It's clear that medical marijuana has benefits, such as easing nausea in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, said Dr. Eric Larson at Seattle's Group Health Research Institute and co-author of a 1999 Institute of Medicine report on medical marijuana.
But research on cannabis has been hindered by the federal Schedule I classification of marijuana as a "completely illegal drug," Dr. Larson said.
Advocates say the legalization of medical marijuana would pave the way for more scientific research.
State Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie) said last week that it appeared the Illinois bill is a few shorts of the 60 required for passage in the House. He said he won't call it for a vote unless he knows that the measure will pass.
Lang said he may call for a vote after the November election and before newly elected lawmakers take office in January -- which highlights the perceived political risk of supporting medical marijuana, even though a recent national poll shows that more than 80 percent of American voters back the idea.
"What I have to overcome is the basic political calculation that many of my colleagues take," Lang said. "Ultimately, this is a health care bill. It's not a bill about drugs. I'm here for people's health care and pain. We should do this controlled piece of legislation... to help people."
By Steve Elliott
May 10, 2010
Toke of the Town