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Medical marijuana takes a hit in Illinois House

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SPRINGFIELD — Illinois' medical marijuana measure failed to roll out of the House on Thursday.
The measure failed on a 53-61 vote, but it could return by the end of the month, said bill sponsor State Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie.

By Mary J. Cristobal

SPRINGFIELD — Illinois' medical marijuana measure failed to roll out of the House on Thursday.
The measure failed on a 53-61 vote, but it could return by the end of the month, said bill sponsor State Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie.

"This bill is not about drugs. It's not about marijuana," Lang said. "It's about health care."

House Bill 30 would allow patients and their doctors to register for a Medical Marijuana Card from the Illinois Department of Public Health. The card would allow certain patients to possess less than two ounces of cannabis. But if a patient shared their prescribed cannabis, they could land in prison or be fined.

Only certain patients, such as those suffering from cancer, glaucoma, a spinal cord injury or agitation of Alzheimer's disease, would be eligible for the card.

"They are very specific illnesses that are very, very, horrific in many cases," said House Minority Leader Tom Cross, R-Plainfield, who was one of the few Republicans who supported the measure.

"And as I then talked to people in the medical community — physicians, oncologists, nurses, nurses' assistants — they would tell me that there are only in these instances, medical marijuana is the only thing, the only thing, that provided relief," said Cross, also a former prosecutor.

Marijuana is a controlled substance, and there is no firm scientific evidence that smoked marijuana can be safely and effectively used as medicine, according to Will Taylor, a public information officer for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, which targets criminal groups that cultivate and traffic marijuana, not the sick and dying who may use the drug.

"The Food and Drug Administration has not approved smoked marijuana for any condition or disease," Taylor said.

Local law enforcers are also concerned about medical marijuana hitting the streets.

Jim Raap, a police officer from Elgin, said he's concerned that people would obtain fake prescriptions.
"It's going to be more time-consuming on our end (during an investigation) to figure out if the prescription is legit," Raap said.

Dennis Kazarian has been patrolling the streets since 1986. The police officer from Elmhurst said medical marijuana could get in the wrong set of hands.

"There are lots of variable. Who's going to administer it? How can you tell if people would sell it to someone else?" Kazarian said.

State Rep. Richard Morthland, R-Moline, echoed the police officers' concerns, and during the debate he got personal with the measure's sponsor, Lang.

"This would put marijuana in the hands of the wrong people," Morthland said. "I have a daughter with epilepsy and sir, she does not need marijuana. But if a medical doctor disagrees with me, she will receive it, and that is not right."

Advocacy groups also are concerned, including the Rev. Bob Vanden Bosch, executive director at Concerned Christian Americans, a nonprofit group that educates the Christian community on civic issues.

Under the measure, a prescription for 2.5 ounces of medical marijuana can be issued every two weeks to a patient.

"You'll have a lot of marijuana that is floating around in the state of Illinois, and since it's more than most people are going to use, it's also going to cause problems with the illegal drug usage," Bosch said.
Lang said he will work hard to get enough votes to pass the measure out of the House by the end of the month.

"The core of this bill is to make sick people feel better," Lang said.

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