Illinois Adopts Medical Marijuana

Illinois has joined the ranks of states that let patients smoke up to relieve their suffering.

Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat from Chicago, signed legislation on Aug. 1 that makes Illinois the 20th state in the nation to allow medical marijuana. The law will take effect New Year’s Day 2014.

Illinois’ medical pot law is now one of the strictest in the United States. To qualify, patients must suffer from one of a list of 30 debilitating medical conditions such as HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis and cancer. Marijuana can also legally be used to treat the side effects of some heavy-duty treatments such as chemotherapy.

“It’s very important we do whatever we can to ease their pain,” Quinn said during a signing ceremony at the University of Chicago.

Under the law, patients with debilitating conditions must have established relationships with the doctors who issue them marijuana prescriptions. A limit of 2.5 ounces every two weeks is placed on each patient.

Weed will be sold out of state-run dispensaries through a four-year pilot program and grown at 22 cultivation centers. Security will be among the tightest in the nation, with 24-hour video surveillance of all grow locations. Home growing is prohibited, unlike in more than a dozen other states.

The tight rules were put in place mostly to appease opponents of the law, who included law enforcement officials and anti-drug groups. They worried it would lead to more impaired driving and encourage drug use.

Some also said the 2.5-ounce limit was too high. But supporters of the provision countered that it was included to help patients who use weed in edibles, which require larger amounts than smoked pot.

Quinn never openly supported the bill as it made its way through the state Legislature, but said he was “open minded” to it. At the signing ceremony, he stressed the bill’s careful crafting.

“The reason I’m signing the bill is because it is so tightly and properly drafted,” Quinn said.

State Rep. Lou Lang, a Democrat from Skokie and a sponsor of the bill, said it would be hard for anyone who isn’t a patient to get their hands on legally produced marijuana. And the patients who can get the pot badly need it, he said at the signing ceremony.

“Are we really going to be a state where we’re going to allow a 75-year-old granny with colon cancer to have to search for a remedy for her pain and her nausea? I don’t think that’s the kind of state we want to be,” Lang said.

Illinois has now joined 19 other states and the District of Columbia in legalizing medical marijuana. The other states include Montana, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Nevada, Oregon, Alaska, Hawaii, Michigan, New Jersey, Delaware, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. The states of Colorado and Washington have gone further, legalizing recreational weed.


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