The Illinois House approved medical marijuana proposal House Bill 1 yesterday evening. The bill still has to go through the Senate and be signed by the governor, but supporters say House biggest hurdle the law would face.
If passed, House Bill 1 would allow registered patients to possess up to two and a half ounces. Patients would not be allowed to grow their own, but would rely on one of 22 grow facilities to stock their nearby dispensary. There would be as many as 60 medical marijuana dispensaries licensed by the state.
Medical marijuana legislation in January passed through the Senate, but was narrowly defeated by four votes in the House. House Bill 1 is basically lightly reworked version of the bill, sponsored by State Sen. Lou Lang, added additional regulations including implementing the medical marijuana system as a four-year pilot program. Another was removing the right for patients to grow their own.
"Ladies and gentlemen, this is not about getting high, it's not about dope, it's not about what our mothers told us when we went to college," Lang said at the vote. "This is about providing a product at no expense to the taxpayers to provide better health care to people who desperately need this product."
The bill passed on a 61 to 57 vote. Several legislators made passionate pleas to their fellow representatives, including Chicago Rep. Kelly Cassidy who has watched her brother-in-law suffer through terminal cancer. She says pain pills were making it worse and that cannabis has been the only way he has found relief. "My sister and my brother-in-law, who I love dearly, are able to make the best of an absolutely horrific situation as a result of this product," Cassidy said.
It also had a few vocal opponents as well; including Rep. Mike Bost of Murphysboro who made the ignorant comment that there are pharmaceutical drugs that "can do exactly what marijuana does." With opponents as uninformed as Bost, it's no wonder the tables have turned in just three months.
"I guarantee you we will be back adjusting this legislation because of the problems that will occur," Bost said, "or we will back on this floor to go ahead and move for the legalization of marijuana."
The bill does have a few questionable points, including one stipulation to the program that would require registered medical marijuana patients pulled over by police to submit to a sobriety test. Refusing it would mean the state takes away your driver's license. The other is the move that takes away patient growing rights from the original bill, forcing patients to spend money on marijuana instead of growing it themselves for much, much less.
With a favorable senate and a governor who has said he was open to medical marijuana legislation, supporters are hopeful this will be the bill that does it. As of now, the bill is in Senate Assignments and has yet to be put to a committee.