Despite stiff opposition, medicinal marijuana passes senate committee



SPRINGFIELD – Following a hearing Wednesday, the Senate Executive Committee voted 10-5 to approve a bill that would allow Illinois residents with serious illnesses to use medical marijuana if their physicians recommend it. The full 59-member Senate will now consider the measure, which received approval from the full House of Representatives on April 17.
 
“We applaud the committee members for supporting safe access to medical marijuana for patients suffering from debilitating conditions,” said Dan Riffle, deputy director of government relations for the Marijuana Policy Project. “We hope their colleagues will agree that seriously ill people who benefit from medical marijuana should not have to risk being arrested and prosecuted.”
 
House Bill 1, sponsored in the Senate by former state’s attorney Sen. William Haine (D-Alton), would allow people suffering from specific medical conditions, such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, and HIV/AIDS, to use medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it. Qualified patients would be able to obtain marijuana from one of up to 60 dispensaries, which would acquire marijuana from up to 22 cultivation centers. The Illinois Department of Agriculture, Department of Health, and Department of Financial & Professional Regulation would regulate the cultivation, acquisition, and distribution of marijuana.
 
Rev. Alexander Sharp, executive director emeritus of Protestants for the Common Good, former narcotics police officer Karen Stone, Mt. Vernon-based physician Dr. David Walters, and a Somonauk-based military veteran with advanced multiple sclerosis testified in support of the bill Wednesday. It has also been endorsed by the Illinois Nurses Association and the Illinois State Bar Association. Since last month, more than 265 doctors from across the state have signed on to a statement in support of safe access to medical marijuana for patients with serious illnesses.
 
“If marijuana can provide relief to those suffering from terrible illnesses like cancer and HIV/AIDS, it is unconscionable to criminalize them for using it,” Rev. Sharp said. “I am proud to see our state's elected officials are moving forward with this compassionate and much-needed legislation. It’s the right thing to do.”
 
Eighteen states and Washington, D.C. allow patients with qualifying conditions to use medical marijuana with recommendations from their physicians. Similar legislation has been introduced in 16 additional states this year, and it is anticipated in one more state.

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