Pubdate: Sat, 07 Feb 2004
Source: Quad-City Times (IA)
Copyright: 2004 Quad-City Times
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


SPRINGFIELD - Cancer and AIDS sufferers as well as Illinoisans
suffering from glaucoma, would be able to grow, possess and use
marijuana without fear of arrest or jail under legislation just
introduced in the General Assembly.

But House Bill 4868's sponsor, Rep. Angelo "Skip" Saviano, R-River
Grove, said his motivation in offering the measure is only to educate
his fellow lawmakers.

"I'm approaching this with the idea of seeing where everybody lines up
on it - law enforcement, the medical community - to see if this would
be something feasible or palatable," he said.

As a practical matter, he said the measure probably will not make it
to the electronic tote board in the House chamber that records the
"ayes" and "nays."

"This is not the year to call it for a vote, with elections coming
up," Saviano said. He said a committee hearing is only the "first
step" in what inevitably will be a "tedious evolution in the process
to resolve conflicts with state and federal law."

The Bush administration has been adamant in opposing the
implementation of similar marijuana legislation in states that have
already embraced it as a medically acceptable treatment. Those states
include Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, Oregon
and Washington.

"Maybe somewhere down the line this might translate into a mandate for
our congressional delegation that says, 'Maybe you should look at
this, too,' " he said.

Several members of the Illinois delegation already have shown their
support for state medical marijuana laws. U.S. Reps. Danny Davis, Luis
Gutierrez, Jesse Jackson Jr., Tim Johnson, Bobby Rush and Jan
Schakowsky, all Democrats, voted for the Hinchey-Rohrabacher amendment
to the Commerce Justice State Appropriations bill last July. That
amendment would have protected medical marijuana clinics operating
with state approval from U.S. Department of Justice

Saviano's bill has bipartisan support. Illinois House co-sponsors
include Democratic Reps. Larry McKeon and Susana Mendoza. Sen. Carol
Ronen, D-Chicago, is sponsoring similar legislation in the upper
chamber with Senate Bill 2440.

Saviano said he does not expect Gov. Rod Blagojevich to weigh in on
the proposal.

"He has other pharmaceutical problems," Saviano chuckled, referring to
the governor's highly publicized effort to reverse federal policy on
the reimportation of prescription drugs from Canada.

University of Illinois senior Danielle Schumacher is president of the
Urbana-Champaign chapter of Illinois NORML, the National Organization
for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. She said more than 300 local members
plan to lobby for the bill's passage.

"I think the best part of this bill is that it actually outlines how
to use the law, rather than just saying this is legal," she said.

Laimutis Nargelenas, manager of governmental relations for the
Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, said it is too early in the
process for his organization to talk about the merits of Saviano's

"We have no position," he said. "I'll have to contact our legislative
committee, and they will review it." He noted that the chiefs have
been "tracking national attempts" of a similar nature.

The Illinois State Medical Society, or ISMS, declined to take a
position on the measure, too, saying only that an internal review was
underway. An ISMS staffer did provide information from the American
Medical Association outlining the parent organization's stance.

That policy statement calls for further studies of marijuana's
effectiveness as a therapy and urges the National Institutes of Health
to administratively facilitate grants for those studies - but say
marijuana should remain a controlled substance in the interim.

Ironically, Illinois already has a statute on the books that allows
licensed physicians to conduct research on the medicinal use of
marijuana research and shields research participants from prosecution.
According to the Washington, D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project,
however, the program never has been in operation.
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MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin