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 Haine, The 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.”