Support for medical marijuana has grown significantly in recent years as 18 states and the District of Columbia have now legalized it for patients suffering from serious illnesses. According to a recent CBS News poll, 83 percent of Americans favor allowing doctors to prescribe medical marijuana to patients afflicted by debilitating diseases.|
In Illinois, state lawmakers are considering bipartisan legislation -- House Bill 1 -- that would allow for medical marijuana usage for qualified patients.There is ample scientific evidence indicating marijuana can provide relief from continual pain, nausea and discomfort more effectively than conventional medications for patients suffering from serious ailments, such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease and HIV.
The proposed legislation does not amount to a reckless full-scale legalization of marijuana. "Hands off" policies in other states have resulted in a proliferation of thousands of ubiquitous and problematic storefront medical marijuana dispensaries. In states like California and Colorado, consumers have found ways to gain legal access to marijuana for recreational use instead of legitimate medical illnesses.
Under the proposed four-year pilot program, Illinois patients would be prohibited from growing their own marijuana and would be limited in the amount of marijuana they could receive.Qualified patients would have to receive certification from their own physician with whom they have a "bona fide" physician-patient relationship.
The physician must attest that the patient is suffering from a specified illness or condition, defined in the legislation, and would receive therapeutic benefit with treatment. The patient's medical history would be turned over to the Illinois Department of Public Health, which would conduct background checks and issue the patient an ID card, only if it verifies the information.Convicted felons would be prohibited from obtaining an ID card.
The ID card would allow the patient, or licensed caregiver, to purchase a limited amount per month from one of up to 60 state-licensed dispensaries throughout the state, and would be prohibited near schools, playgrounds, parks, libraries or churches.
The state would track sales to monitor purchasing and oversee how much marijuana physicians recommend to their patients.Up to 22 secure, competing state-licensed cultivation centers operating separately from the dispensaries would grow marijuana and distribute an affordable and safe product to the dispensaries.
By monitoring sales and implementing effective regulations and controls, Illinois can serve as a national model for other states to follow. Licensing fees collected from the cultivation centers and dispensaries would provide revenue to the state and help offset regulatory and law enforcement costs and finance effective anti-drug campaigns.
Medical marijuana isn't as much an issue of law and order as it is of basic human rights. But patients using medical marijuana should not be treated any differently from those who use prescription drugs obtained from a pharmacy. Providing for high standards, stringent security measures and regulatory oversight is preferable to having medical marijuana patients continue to obtain the drug illegally.
Together, these polices recognize public will, the safety concerns of our communities and above all else, the needs of those suffering Illinois residents for whom marijuana is the best medicine in providing relief to help them manage untreatable pain in their daily lives.
State Rep. Lou Lang is a Skokie Democrat and state Sen. Bill Haine, is a Republican from Alton.
East moline, IL Details
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