Progressives hoping to see their agenda advanced in the Illinois General Assembly this winter were dealt a blow Tuesday, as medical marijuana legislation did not receive the 60 votes required to pass. Sponsor Lou Lang pulled the bill to keep it alive for future consideration.
Senate Bill 1381, the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act, passed the State Senate in May of last year. But if Lang is unable to gain more votes for it in the House this session, as appears likely, it will have to start all over in the next legislature.
The bill would have allowed access to marijuana for the chronically ill; patients would need a license from state public health officials and permission from a doctor under its provisions. It would have been a trial, and would face another vote three years after passage.
Opponents argued that restrictions in the bill were too lax. From the Fox Valley Sun:
"I think most people have this impression that medical marijuana is for people who are dying. That couldn't be further from the truth," said Chris Endress, director of the Quad City Metropolitan Enforcement Group. His agency serves Rock Island in western Illinois and Scott County, Iowa.
The typical medical marijuana user is not old and dying, Endress said. Rather, they are young males. They need a card issued by a doctor to be able to use marijuana, and there are doctors known for issuing cards to anyone who comes into their office, Endress said.
And the Tribune quotes Representative Ron Stephens, a pharmacist and a Republican, who argued that SB 1381 "should be called the marijuana possession law."
"It doesn't restrict the use in any one way," Stephens said.
Governor Quinn had supported the measure as a means to alleviate pain for the chronically ill. A handful of House Democrats rebuked him on the bill, a disturbing sign for a governor who's hoping to use lame-duck majorities to pass ambitious legislation during the current veto session.
Civil unions, a tax increase and a borrowing plan may all come before the Legislature before the session is out.
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