Illinois Senate Approves Nation’s Strictest Medical Marijuana Law

Illinois Senate Approves Nation’s Strictest Medical Marijuana Law

Posted on Tuesday, May 21st, 2013 at 9:44 am by Life Matters Media

Image: WikiMedia Commons

Image: WikiMedia Commons

In what is being called the strictest medical marijuana law in the nation, Illinois lawmakers have agreed to legalize the drug for some terminally ill patients.

Only physicians with existing relationships with certain patients could prescribe the drug, and patient background checks are mandatory. Patients would not be allowed to grow their own marijuana or use the drug around minors or in public. “What this would set up is a four-year trial program for patients who have an established relationship with a doctor and who can demonstrate that they need this to ease symptoms and take them out of pain,” WGN-TV reports.

The bill also sets a 2.5 ounce limit per patient per purchase from 60 state regulated dispensaries. Illinois will license about 20 growers.

“This bill is filled with walls to keep this limited,” said Democratic Sen. Bill HaineThe Chicago Tribune reports.

The bill now heads to Gov. Pat Quinn, who has remained tight- lipped about whether he will sign the bill into law,  saying only that he is “open minded” about the issue. Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon, a former prosecutor, said that after meeting with patients, she favored the plan, The Associated Press reports.

“We are embarking here on a way to achieve relief, compassionate relief, consistent with the law (with) a system which avoids abuse,” Haine said. “It’s the tightest, most controlled legislative initiative in the United State related to medical cannabis.” The Senate vote was 35-21, with five more than needed for passage.

“At the end of the day, we’re talking about a plant,” said Sen. William Delgado, a Democrat from Chicago.

But not all lawmakers are pleased with the legislation. “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,” said Republican Sen. Kyle McCarter before the vote. His daughter died in 2006 from a drug overdose.

According to the bill, “Modern medical research has confirmed the beneficial uses of cannabis in treating or alleviating the pain, nausea, and other symptoms associated with a variety of debilitating medical conditions, including cancer, multiple sclerosis, and HIV/AIDS,” citing a 1999 study published by the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine.

“Medical marijuana works really well for hospice patients,” said Dr. Matthew R. Sorenson, an associate professor at DePaul University’s School of Nursing. “Based off my research, I think this type of bill has a lot of potential. Marijuana has a lot of benefits for other patients, especially for those suffering from MS or chronic nausea.”

Death With Dignity: Vermont House To Vote Amended Bill

Posted on Monday, April 29th, 2013 at 4:39 pm by Life Matters Media

The Vermont House will soon vote on a more stringent version of the Senate legislation known as “Death with Dignity.” The House legislation would grant physicians the ability to prescribe life-ending drugs to some terminally ill patients; however, the bill has more caveats, such as mandatory hospice enrollment.

Several weeks ago, the Senate whittled down its 22-page bill to just two pages, simply granting doctors immunity from prosecution for supplying life-ending drugs to any terminally ill patient with less than six months to live.

Vermont Death Act

But with a 7 to 4 vote, the House Human Services committee backed a new bill restoring much of the process the Senate version eliminated, such as the requirements for both oral and written requests, and a 48-hour waiting period before filling a prescription. Furthermore, it requires every prospective patient to have an advanced directive and be enrolled in hospice, VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

“We have all of the safeguards that they have in Oregon. We have a 15-year track record in Oregon with this law,” said Rochester Rep. Sandy Haas, a Democrat who helped overhaul the Senate’s bill.

Oregon mandates patients verbally request life-ending drugs to their physicians, followed by a 15-day waiting period and then another verbal request. Patients also must submit written requests. Then, they wait 48-hours before picking up the barbiturates.

“That bill was about doctors. The bill we passed this morning is about patients,” Haas said. “The Senate bill purports to be immunity for doctors for malpractice, basically for misprescribing, for confusing patients about what happens.”

Republican Rep. Anne Donahue from Northfield, said she worries the new version will make it easier for families to coerce loved ones into committing suicide. “A person can then wait a month or two or three or more before actually taking (the drugs),” Donahue said. “And at that point there’s absolutely no protection about coercion, family pressures, financial pressures and even whether a person still has the capacity to make that decision.”

Donahue said she favors how the Senate version limited the ability of the state to intervene once an individual committed to end his or her life. “I think that the direction that the Senate went made a huge amount of sense and didn’t have the intrusion on rights and the intrusion of the state actually sanctioning suicide,” Donahue said.

A possible vote is set for Tuesday. If passed, the bill would be kicked back to the Senate for a vote. This is the farthest this Oregon-style legislation has advanced in Vermont. Last year, a bill came before the full Senate, but it failed.

Don Berwick On The Rhetorical Nonsense Of ‘Death Panels’

Posted on Monday, March 18th, 2013 at 12:05 pm by Life Matters Media

Don Berwick, former administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, addressed the need to better control health care costs in a panel at the Association of Health Care Journalists’ conference in Boston. Afterwards, he spoke with LMM about the political firestorm that erupted as a result of his proposals for end of life counseling.

Berwick, influential in the Affordable Care Act plan that would have allowed for Medicare coverage of a doctor-patient discussion about end of life care, said he was outraged his ideas would be labeled “death panels” by many on the political right. The Harvard University trained physician resigned in 2011 from his CMS post due to heavy Republican opposition.

Don Berwick

Don Berwick

“To think about the suffering and the disrespect that nonsense had for people in the terrible stages in their life,” Berwick recounted. “They need compassion, they need the help, they need plans, they need to be together, and this rhetorical nonsense- with no basis in science at all- hurt thousands,” he said.

Berwick said he does not know why that accusation caught on in the political and media dialogue. “I wish in my dreams that the communities in America had risen up and said, ‘Nonsense, no you won’t seize this terrain with rhetoric that makes no sense at all,’” Berwick said.

Despite support from many medical professionals and fellow Democrats, President Obama dropped Medicare funding for end of life counseling from the Act. When it was signed into law in 2009, Democrats wary of being identified with “death panels” dropped all proposals associated with end of life planning.

According to Politifact, a Pulitzer Prize winning fact checker, comparing end of life counseling to “death panels” was 2009′s “Lie of the Year.” Former vice presidential candidate and Alaska governor Sarah Palin was the first to coin the term “death panels” on her Facebook page after the release of an early draft of the Act.

Politifact notes: “This falsehood, our 2009 Lie of the Year, started after an early draft of the bill sought to allow Medicare to pay for doctors’ visits in which patients discussed end-of-life care, such as living wills. The critics labeled it suicide counseling.”

Berwick said he does not envision Republicans embracing the Affordable Care Act anytime soon. “This isn’t about the Affordable Care Act, it’s about a much deeper rift in American public belief in policy,” he said. “It’s the field of battle but not the reason for the war,” he said.

Berwick, who has an exploratory committee looking into a possible run for governor of Massachusetts, did not confirm or deny intentions to enter the race, despite repeated questions from journalists.


Illinois Lawmaker Pushes Medical Marijuana

Posted on Tuesday, November 27th, 2012 at 8:55 pm by Life Matters Media

Illinois lawmaker pushes for medical marijuana bill

An Illinois sponsor of a medical marijuana measure says he may have enough votes to pass the bill in the Statehouse, the Chicago Tribune reportsRep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, says his “nose count” has him near the 60 votes needed for approval of a three-year trial medical marijuana program called the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act, which would be a first for Ill.

“If members vote their consciences, I’ll have the votes,” said Lang, who fell short a handful of votes last year, although the Senate approved similar previous legislation in 2010.

This season may be different, however, because three dozen lawmakers in the House and Senate are not coming back in the next General Assembly, making them lame ducks, Ray Long reports. “Their votes are more likely to be up for grabs given that they are not expected to face the voters again.”

CBS News reports that advocates of medical marijuana are in Springfield to lobby state lawmakers to approve the use of medical marijuana with strict limitations. The drug would only be prescribed by doctors, in small amounts, to qualifying terminally ill patients or their designated caregivers. Individuals suffering from AIDS, cancer, multiple sclerosis or a “debilitating medical condition” may qualify.

A qualifying patient or caregiver would only be able to legally possess 6 cannabis plants and 2 ounces of dried usable cannabis during a two-week period.

State Rep. Jim Durkin, R-Countryside, opposes the measure because he fears it will make the drug more available. “Just in the last two weeks in DeKalb, there was a 10-pound traffic stop of medical marijuana that came from Oregon,” Durkin said.

The AP reports that Rep. Jim Sacia, R-Freeport, acknowledges that Lang may have enough votes to pass the measure, but the former FBI agent still plans to fight it. “I just see it as a tremendous mistake,” said Sacia.

Lang may bring the measure to vote this week at the General Assembly. He told the AP that there are “a whole bunch of people who are wavering.” He will work over the weekend before putting the measure to vote, although he may be close to the 60 votes needed.

Medical marijuana supporters have already won local approval for medical use in 18 states and D.C. Voters in Colorado and Washington chose to legalize marijuana, although, the federal government currently lists marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance, meaning it has no medically accepted use and high potential for abuse.