Illinois State Senator Bill Haine (D-Alton) and Deputy House Majority Leader Lou Lang (D-Skokie) tried to shove their medical marijuana legislation forward Tuesday.
They're having a tough go.
Appearing at a press conference in Springfield, the lawmakers unveiled two television commercials featuring two Illinois residents--Lucie Macfarlane of Joliet and Lisa Lange Van Camp of Lindenhurst--battling debilitating diseases who rely on doctor-authorized marijuana to ease their suffering.
Macfarlane suffers from neurofibromatosis--a disease in which tumors grow on nerve tissue--and Lange Van Camp lives with osteoarthritis. They both use pot to deaden the pain. The spots, which tell their stories, are now appearing in Chicago, Peoria, and Springfield.
The ad buy aims to help build support in the Illinois House and Senate on behalf of Senate Bill 1381 and House Bill 2514 to legalize seven medical marijuana plants per patient. Seven. The program would be administered by the Illinois Department of Public Health.
Studies have shown that marijuana relieves debilitating symptoms including nausea, appetite loss, and severe pain. It has been shown to increase the chances that HIV/AIDs and hepatitis C patients will stay on life-saving medications, according to the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington, D.C., which is pushing the Illinois initiative.
Cue the wackos.
Judy Kreamer, President of the Naperville-based Educating Voices, a faith-based drug prevention-education group noisily opposes medical marijuana to treat the pain of Macfarlane's neurofibromatosis or Lange Van Camp's osteoarthritis.
"The message it will send our youth is that if marijuana is a medicine then it must not be harmful. As a result marijuana use among Illinois youth population will increase," Kreamer says in a rambling press release--which also warned against the threat of Mexican drug cartels-- issued after the Lang and Haine press conference.
No kidding. You can't make this stuff up. Seven weed plants and Henny Penny will make the sky fall in Illinois. Where does one start?
Kreamer's logic--and apparently her drug education program--overlooks that most doctor-prescribed medicine is harmful if the wrong dosage is consumed or if the wrong person consumes it. That's why warning labels and child-proof safety caps and directions are prominent features on medicine packaging.
For example, chemotherapy medication can cause Anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction, which induces shock, low blood pressure, and occasionally death. That's harmful. It's a medicine. And doctors still prescribe chemotherapy medication to treat a patient's cancer. Right?
What Haine and Lang want to accomplish with their legislation is to give doctors the medical option to proscribe a treatment--medical marijuana--that is medically necessary and potentially less harmful than traditional opioid painkillers, such as OxyContin and Vicodin.
In a statement by Dr. Leonard J. Paulozzi, Medical Epidemiologist at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on trends in unintentional drug overdose deaths before U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs on Wednesday, March 12, 2008, the doctor said:
"The number of deaths ... that involved prescription opioid analgesics increased from 2,900 in 1999 to at least 7,500 in 2004, an increase of 160% in just 5 years. By 2004, opioid painkiller deaths numbered more than the total of deaths involving heroin and cocaine in this category."
That's the likes of OxyContin and Vicodin.
How many deaths from marijuana overdoses? Zero. Zilch. Zippo.
If Kraemer and crew are keen on educating Illinois youth on potentially harmful drugs--they should set their sights on drugs such as OxyContin and Vicodin. In the meantime, they should buzz off and let Haine and Lang get their law passed.
According to legislative sources, Haine's bill has the stronger political momentum of the two at the moment. Backers say they are only two votes shy of Senate approval. Lang's House bill still needs more political spade work. Both need less static from the peanut gallery.
The legislature is scheduled to adjourn on May 31. The clock is ticking.