Pubdate: Thu, 09 May 2013
Source: Chicago Tribune (IL)
Copyright: 2013 Chicago Tribune Company
Authors: Monique Garcia and Rafael Guerrero
Page: 7


SPRINGFIELD - A measure to allow doctors to prescribe medical
marijuana to patients with serious illnesses advanced in the Illinois
Senate on Wednesday.

The issue sparked an emotional debate, with supporters arguing for
compassion for those suffering from pain they say only cannabis can
ease, even as law enforcement officials warned the proposal could
create a "public safety nightmare" on the state's streets and highways.

The measure was approved 10-5 by the Senate Executive Committee and is
expected to be called for a final vote next week. The bill has passed
the House, and Gov. Pat Quinn has indicated he is "openminded" but
wants to give the matter further review.

Sponsoring Sen. Bill Haine, D-Alton, said the measure is the strictest
in the nation and is "narrowly crafted to ensure only those who are
medically prescribed and verified can use this substance." Haine, a
former Madison County state's attorney, promised the legislation was
"not an opening to legalization" of recreational pot use.

Under the proposal, a four-year trial program would allow doctors to
prescribe patients no more than 2.5 ounces of marijuana every two
weeks. Patients must have one of 33 serious or chronic conditions -
including cancer, multiple sclerosis or HIV - and an established
relationship with a doctor to qualify. They would undergo
fingerprinting and a criminal background check, and would be banned
from using marijuana in public and around minors.

Patients also could not legally grow marijuana, and they would have to
buy it from one of 60 dispensing centers across Illinois. The state
would license 22 growers.

Sen. Kwame Raoul, DChicago, implored his colleagues to support the
measure as he recounted the pain his late physician father had with

Opponents acknowledged the relief marijuana could provide but
questioned the unintended consequences of endorsing a drug that the
federal government classifies as a controlled substance.

"This isn't just about making sick people comfortable, although I know
that is your intention," said Sen. Matt Murphy, R-Palatine. "There is
a potential downside to this, and it's big and it's scary and I think
it needs to be thoroughly vetted, and I'm not sure we're there yet."

The measure also drew opposition from the Illinois Association of
Chiefs of Police and the Illinois Sheriffs' Association, which sent a
letter to the governor and lawmakers warning the proposal would not
stop medical marijuana card holders from driving while under the
influence. They suggested blood and urine testing be included in the
legislation to allow police to determine whether card holders had
marijuana in their system while driving.

Haine argued the law has safeguards to prevent that, including
designating on a driver's license whether they use medical marijuana.

A spokesman for Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said he has yet to take
an official position on the legislation but noted that "the sheriff's
office will enforce the most up-to-date marijuana-related Illinois
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