A bill that would allow seriously ill patients to use marijuana squeaked by a state Senate subcommittee with a one-vote margin last week and is now heading for a Senate floor vote, probably next week. The last day to move Senate bills is next Friday.
The medical marijuana bill, SB 2568, passed the Senate Health and Human Services Committee on a 6-5 vote despite hearing testimony against it from law enforcement and drug abuse prevention groups. That testimony was countered by medical marijuana patients such as Julie Falco, a Chicago resident and multiple sclerosis sufferer, and by the bill's endorsement by groups such as the Illinois State Nurses Assocation.
The vote came as the group Illinois Drug Education and Legislative Reform released a poll commissioned by the Marijuana Policy Project and conducted by Anzalone-Liszt Research found 62% of Illinoisans supported legislation "that would allow people with cancer, multiple sclerosis, AIDS and other serious illnesses to use and grow their own marijuana for medical purposes, as long as their physician approves." Only 28% were opposed, with 10% undecided.
SB 2568 would do just that. It would set up a registry system where anyone diagnosed by a physician as suffering from a debilitating disease or medical condition would be allowed to possess up to 12 marijuana plants and 2 ½ ounces of usable pot.
The Senate committee vote "is a major step forward," said Christopher Fichtner, MD, former director of mental health for the Illinois Department of Human Services. "The evidence that marijuana is a safe, effective medicine for some very ill patients has been repeatedly verified by government commissions in the US, Canada, Britain and elsewhere. This is a sensible, well-crafted bill that deserves quick passage," said Fichtner, a medical consultant to IDEAL Reform who testified before the committee.
The Marijuana Policy Project suggested Illinois legislators would be wise to vote for the bill. "Since the passage of Rhode Island's medical marijuana law in January, we are seeing tremendous momentum," said Adam Horowitz, legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington, DC. "This new Illinois poll reflects what we are seeing nationwide, and legislators are learning how hugely popular medical marijuana legislation is."
If the bill becomes law, Illinois would become the 12th state to legalize medical marijuana. The others are Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.