The Illinois senate Friday approved House Bill 1, which would create a state-regulated medical marijuana patient program as well as authorize state-regulated medical marijuana dispensaries. Lawmakers say they have created one of the strictest programs in the nation.
But Governor Pat Quinn says he's still considering the bill, though he told reporters earlier today that he remains "open minded" on the issue. Lt. Gov. Shelia Simon has publicly expressed her support for the bill.
The bill creates a four-year pilot program that allows doctors with an existing relationship with a patient to recommend medical marijuana for qualifying conditions. Patients would be allowed to posses up to 2.5 ounces at a time, purchased from one of the roughly 60 dispensaries that will be allowed to open across the state. Cannabis for the dispensaries will be grown by as many as 22 separate grow operations. Patients and caregivers would not be allowed to grow their own supply.Medical cannabis would be taxed at about 7 percent per-ounce, with money raised going to pay for the system. Any money left over would got to the state general fund.
The bill also requires medical marijuana patients to submit to field sobriety tests if pulled over by a police officer for suspicion of driving under the influence.
Proponents of the bill say this is a giant leap for patients in Illinois.
"We applaud the Illinois legislature for taking action and adopting this widely supported and much-needed legislation," said Dan Riffle, MPP deputy director of government relations. "The final product is a comprehensive and tightly controlled system that will allow individuals with serious illnesses to safely and legally access medical marijuana with their doctors' supervision."
But critics - including law enforcement groups - say the bill will only increase illicit use of cannabis. That fear clearly spread to ignorant lawmakers, like Sen. Kyle McCarter from Lebanon.
"For every touching story that we have heard about the benefits of those in pain, I remind you today that there are a thousand times more parents who will never be relieved from the pain of losing a child due to addiction, which in many cases has started with the very illegal, FDA-unapproved, addiction-forming drug you are asking us to make a normal part of our communities," McCarter said before the bill was adopted.
The bill passed the Senate with a 35 to 21 vote. If signed by the governor, Illinois would join 19 other states and Washington D.C. in allowing medical marijuana.