Pubdate: Wed, 03 Mar 2004
Source: Pantagraph, The  (IL)
Copyright: 2004 The Pantagraph
Author: Scott Miller
Cited: Office of National Drug Control Policy
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


SPRINGFIELD -- For 20 years, state Rep. Larry McKeon, D-Chicago, has
battled HIV and the nausea and pain stemming from its treatments.

For 18 years, Ronald Shaw of Chicago has fought AIDS.

Both say marijuana is a cure for the pain. On Tuesday they asked state
lawmakers to support legislation that would allow the terminally ill
to grow six marijuana plants and legally carry up to 1 ounce of marijuana.

A House committee heard testimony on the proposal, but members agreed
the issue needs more study. Similar legislation is pending in the
Senate, but its fate is unclear.

"All I'm asking is that you don't make me a criminal in order to keep
myself eating and at a weight that I can maintain and allow me to keep
taking the AIDS drugs that are keeping me alive," Shaw told reporters
at a Statehouse press conference.

Federal drug administrators and police agencies actively oppose the
legislation, however.

"While there are no proven benefits to marijuana use, there are many
short- and long-term risks associated with marijuana use," said Dr.
Andrea Barthwell of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. "Even
if smoking marijuana makes people feel better, that's not enough to
call it a medicine."

In addition, Barthwell said several drugs already do the job,
including Marinol, a drug using some chemicals from marijuana while
blocking some of the side effects.

McKeon, the legislation's sponsor, and Shaw both said such medicine
doesn't work for everyone and may cause more problems.

"I take about 14 pills in the morning, three or four in the afternoon
and another half dozen in the evening," McKeon said, "and after a
while you get sick and tired, of being sick and tired, of being sick
and tired, taking all of these medications that cause nausea,
diarrhea, headache and other problems."

In addition, Dr. Edward Lack, a Chicago physician with pancreatic
cancer who favors medical use of marijuana, said all treatments have
side affects. He said he gets marijuana through a college student.

"When you're worried about side effects, every anti-cancer drug kills
the kidney, kills the lung, kills the liver," Lack said. "What are we
talking about? These are people that are suffering and dying."

Greg Sullivan, executive director of the Illinois Sheriff's
Association, said he fears such a law would be unenforceable and would
increase the flow of the illegal drug.

"Let me give you a scenario if I could," he said. "I'm an 18-year-old
who's been adjudicated, a juvenile delinquent. I can now be a
caregiver, grow six plants and carry an ounce of marijuana with me. It
is an enforcement nightmare."

McKeon disagreed.

Strict supervision, strict limits on what's available and registration
with the Department of Human Services will help law enforcement
prevent abuse of the program, he said. "This is not about expanding
the availability of drugs on the street," McKeon said.

Still, the proposal could not trump federal law, but supporters say
local police carry out 99 percent of drug arrests, and the federal
police only deal with much larger busts.

State Rep. Patti Bellock, R-Hinsdale, is against the proposal.

"It is not up to the electorate or the General Assembly to decide what
is medicine," she said. "That should be left to the

Nine states already have medical marijuana laws: California, Alaska,
Arizona, Hawaii, Maine, Oregon, Washington, Nevada and Colorado.

The legislation is House Bill 4868 and Senate Bill 2440. 
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