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Medical Marijuana Vote Delayed For Fourth Straight Day

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UPDATE 5/22 4:50 P.M.

The Senate vote on medical marijuana legislation has been delayed for a fourth consecutive day. A staffer in the office of the bill's sponsor, Sen. William Haine (D-Alton), was hopeful that it could be called Tuesday when the chamber returns from the Memorial Day holiday.

UPDATE 5/21 4:25 P.M.

Thursday was almost the day for the Illinois Senate to vote on a bill to legalize medical marijuana.

Sen. William Haine (D-Alton), sponsor of The Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act, left his office at the end of an afternoon recess determined to call the vote but never got his chance.

The Senate adjourned at 3:55 p.m. for committee hearings, having not made it through all of the House bills, and will not be voting the rest of the day.

The medical marijuana bill may come to a vote Friday. Observers expect the vote, whenever it happens, to be close. (Scroll down for Haine's take on its chances.)

Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) supports the bill but is not actively working to round up votes, according to spokesperson Rikeesha Phelon.

"He's leaving the whip role to Sen. [Haine]," Phelon said, adding that the Senate president is focused on ethics reform and the budget.

-Tim Taliaferro

UPDATE 5/20 6:15 P.M.

The Illinois Senate again postponed a vote on a controversial bill to legalize medical marijuana Wednesday.

A floor vote on SB 1381 has been expected for days but been put off repeatedly both for procedural and strategic reasons.

Sen. William Haine (D-Alton), the bill's sponsor, told the Huffington Post the Senate was consumed all day Wednesday with the capital bill and various other House bills.

"I'll call it tomorrow if they give me the time," Haine said. "It's a controversial bill so they'll block out an hour for it."

Haine pegged the bill's chances of being called Thursday at 50-50, with the schedule set by the Senate president, John Cullerton (D-Chicago), and which senators are on the floor as the determining factors.

"I have to determine if all my 'yes' votes are on the floor," Haine said. "I was going to call it Monday but two of my 'yes' votes weren't there."

Haine said he expected most of the senators to be on the floor tomorrow, though he noted that as the weekend nears they tend to drop off.

"It's like herding cats," Haine said.

Haine, however, doubts that the bill would make it through the House session even if it passed the Senate.

"I don't see it making it out of the House," Haine said. "I don't think they're ready for it. But it will be ready for them in the fall."

-Tim Taliaferro

UPDATE 5/19 6:00 P.M.

A vote on an Illinois Senate bill to legalize medical marijuana that was expected today has been postponed until Wednesday.

Sponsor William R. Haine (D-Alton) told the Huffington Post that the Senate spent the whole day on House bills.

Haine said he was told by a Senate staffer to expect the vote tomorrow morning.

As for its chances, Haine said he thought they were better than they were a week ago but that it was still too early to call.

"It's close," Haine said. "It's real close."

The strongest opposition remains local police groups who have reservations about their ability to enforce the law.

Haine added a sunset clause to try and allay those concerns, he said.

"They say it's an enforcement problem but I'm not seeing it," Haine said. "We added a three-year sunset in case there are problems. But I don't see it as a show-stopper."

* * *
The Illinois Senate is expected to vote on a bill legalizing the medicinal use of marijuana Tuesday, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.

The bill would allow patients with a doctor's prescription to possess up to seven dried cannabis plants and two ounces of dried, usable cannabis. A push from religious leaders, a round of TV ads from a national advocacy group and a number of compromise amendments have supporters optimistic that the controversial legislation has a chance to secure the 30 votes needed to pass.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. William R. Haine (D-Alton), was hopeful but noncommittal when discussing the bill's chances with the Huffington Post in early May:

"I hate to predict," Haine said. "My burden is to raise the consciences of my colleagues so that they see this as an act of compassion and good sense. This is a plant put on God's green Earth by God himself."

The Post-Dispatch notes that "lawmakers tend to call their bills for a vote when they have enough "aye" votes in the bag," though no marijuana proposal has ever advanced to a floor vote in the Illinois Senate, let alone passed.

Some form of medical marijuana use is legal in 13 states. Michigan is the only state in the Midwest that currently allows it.

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