Pubdate: Wed, 09 Feb 2005
Source: State Journal-Register (IL)
Copyright: 2005 The State Journal-Register
Author: Mary Massingale, State Capitol Bureau
See: Barthwell's 'Illinois Marijuana Lectures' slides at
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


State Legislator Wants Debate With Doctor WHO Is Challenging Practice

As a state lawmaker pushes his proposal to legalize medical-use marijuana, 
a former drug-policy adviser to President Bush is touring Illinois 
lecturing against the practice.

The conflict reached a head this week, when Rep. Larry McKeon, D-Chicago, 
challenged Dr. Andrea Barthwell to a public debate about medical marijuana. 
Barthwell declined the challenge.

"I have no need to engage in street theater," she said.

McKeon charged that Barthwell's seminars appear to be a smear campaign 
against his proposal. The lawmaker - who is living with AIDS - said House 
Bill 407 attempts to improve the quality of life for terminally ill 
patients struggling with the debilitating side effects of chemotherapy and 
other treatments.

"This is about dealing with health problems that traditional medications 
have failed at," McKeon said.

The proposal would allow individuals with a debilitating medical condition 
or their caretakers to own up to 12 cannabis plants and 21/2 ounces of 
usable cannabis. Individuals would be registered confiden- tially with the 
Illinois Department of Human Services and receive an identification card 
exempting them from arrest, prosecution or penalty.

The measure also allows for the creation of nonprofit organizations to grow 
the limited amount of marijuana plants for registered patients.

Law enforcement officials and anti-drug advocates charge that legalizing 
the plant would lead to increased marijuana use. Federal law prohibits 
possession of the plant, but the U.S. Supreme Court will rule this year on 
whether federal officials can prosecute individuals who use medical marijuana.

Ten states allow marijuana to be used for medicinal purposes: Alaska, 
California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and 

McKeon sponsored a similar proposal a year ago that allowed six cannabis 
plants and 1 ounce of usable cannabis. That measure was banished to a 
subcommittee of the House Health Care Availability and Access Committee. 
This year, McKeon's legislation is slated for the House Human Services 

"I want to move it out of committee to the House floor and then hold it on 
the House floor until we've had a reasonable amount of time to do the 
education and outreach to get further feedback," McKeon said.

Barthwell said she already is educating the public, as she travels the 
state presenting the Illinois Marijuana Lectures. Barthwell initiated the 
free, parent-aimed series last month with lectures in Peoria, Bloomington 
and Decatur, and continues this week with stops in Alton, Belleville and 
Mount Vernon.

"A crude plant is definitely not a medicine," Barthwell said. "A surgeon 
doesn't come to a patient recovering from surgery and give them a pipe of 
opium - you give them a derivative."

The Food and Drug Administration has not approved marijuana for medical 
use. A 1978 Illinois law allows participants in federally approved research 
projects to use medical marijuana, but that law never has been implemented.

Law enforcement officials also object to a provision of HB407 allowing 
local and state officers to be fired for pointing federal officials toward 
a registered medical marijuana user.

"That, to us, is pretty Draconian," said Laimutis Nargelenas of the 
Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police.

A former Los Angeles police officer, McKeon said he is willing to sit down 
with law enforcement groups to come up with a compromise.

"This is not a crime bill," McKeon said. "This is a health-care bill." 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake