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Medical Marijuana in Illinois?
The Illinois Senate on Friday voted to approve the use of marijuana for medical purposes, which if signed into law would make it the second-most-populous state in the nation after California to allow the drug’s use for medical purposes. The bill, approved by the Illinois House in April, now moves to Governor Pat Quinn’s desk to await his signature. Quinn has indicated he is sympathetic to the bill, especially as it would benefit injured veterans.
“We fully expect Gov. Quinn to do the compassionate thing and sign the bill,” said Dan Riffle, deputy director of government relations for the Washington-based Marijuana Policy Project.
Riffle said marijuana has proven medical benefits and there is broad public and legislative support for its medical use. The Illinois bill passed by a vote of 35-21 after an emotional, hour-long debate in which some Republicans said they opposed legalizing medical marijuana because it could be a “gateway drug” to abuse of other illegal substances.
Others said they were not convinced that the benefits of smoking marijuana for certain medical conditions outweighed the potential negative consequences. Democratic State Senator Bill Haine, a former county prosecutor and the bill’s sponsor, said it is the toughest in the nation. He noted that doctors’ groups had endorsed the bill.
“It is a substance which is much more benign than powerful prescription drugs such as Oxycontin, Vicodin and the rest,” Haine said, referring to frequently abused painkillers. “The scourge of these drugs is well-known. This is not true of the medical use of marijuana.”
Eighteen states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana, according to Riffle. The Project does not count Maryland, since its law requires the participation of academic medical centers and will not be implemented until 2015.