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Medicinal marijuana a vote away in Illinois

April 12, 2010

Medicinal marijuana is one vote away from possibly becoming law in Illinois.

The measure’s chief sponsor, State Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie), said Saturday that he is working behind the scenes to line up the needed votes, and is waiting for the right moment to call it for a vote in the Illinois House.

If approved and signed into law by Gov. Pat Quinn, Illinois would become the 15th state to allow medicinal use of marijuana, which has been criminalized in Illinois since the 1930s.

Lang claimed that privately, more than 90 members of the House support the bill. But he said nearly 40 refuse to vote for it because of fears about political fallout.

The bill would allow those who obtain a doctor’s prescription and state licensing to own three marijuana plants.

“It requires them to get a license from the Illinois Dept. of Public health, which would monitor and license each person, and it provides strict penalties for those who break the law, or use the marijuana and drive, or try to sell it or distribute it,” Lang said.

Lang said studies have shown repeatedly that marijuana is not addictive and that someone cannot overdose using it. He said that, as a result, it makes a lot more sense in the treatment of chronic pain than Oxycontin or Vicodin, both of which are addictive and can kill.

The bill has the support of Illinois Public Health Advocate Dr. Quentin Young, who is also Quinn’s personal physician.

“The medical profession has no controversy on this, to speak of,” Dr. Young said.

During a news conference at the James R. Thompson Center, a woman who has had multiple sclerosis for more than 20 years, Julie Falco, said marijuana use has not only relieved pain, it has “saved my life.”

“I was released from debilitating depression and chronic pharmaceutical side effects that almost led me to take my own life,” she said.

The bill won approval in the Illinois Senate 30-28 more than 10 months ago, and won approval 4-3 in the Illinois House Human Services Committee and 3-2 in the Rules Committee. Lang said he has been promised a vote by Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) if he can muster the needed votes.

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