Pubdate: Fri, 17 May 2013
Source: Belleville News-Democrat (IL)
Copyright: 2013 Belleville News-Democrat
Author: Brian Brueggemann


SPRINGFIELD - Despite tearful opposition from a metro-east lawmaker, 
the Illinois Senate on Friday approved a bill allowing people to use 
marijuana to ease the pain of certain medical ailments.

The bill would create a four-year pilot program, under which patients 
with specified medical ailments, including cancer, muscular dystrophy 
and multiple sclerosis, could use marijuana if they get a doctor's permission.

The Senate voted 35-21 to pass the bill, despite opposition from Sen. 
Kyle McCarter, R-Lebanon, who talked about losing a child to drug addiction.

The bill, pushed by Sen. Bill Haine, D-Alton, had already cleared the 
House in April and now goes to Gov. Pat Quinn.

"Many physician groups support this," Haine said during floor debate 
on the bill. Haine said marijuana would give some relief from "the 
terrible pain suffered by people," and is "relatively benign" in 
comparison to other prescription painkillers.

McCarter said that while marijuana might help ease some people's 
pain, there are many parents who "will never be relieved from the 
pain of losing a child" to drug addiction.

"As one of those dads," McCarter said, pausing to compose himself, 
"I'd ask you to vote no."

About 250 Illinois doctors publicly supported the plan, saying 
medical use of marijuana can be safer and more effective than 
narcotic painkillers for some patients. Supporters said marijuana can 
relieve continual pain without triggering the harmful effects of 
other prescription drugs.

Haine, a former Madison County state's attorney, outlined a slew of 
regulations included in the proposal, which he said would give 
Illinois one of the most restrictive medical-marijuana laws in the nation.

A medical marijuana user suspected of driving under the influence of 
marijuana must submit to field-sobriety testing, otherwise his or her 
driver's license will be suspended. The driver's medical marijuana 
card would be revoked, too.

Opponents had questioned whether there would be a good way to 
determine whether a driver is impaired by marijuana, due to traces of 
the drug remaining in a person's system long after the impairment has worn off.

McCarter said police groups are opposed to the bill, and lawmakers 
should "take their opinion very seriously." McCarter also questioned 
whether any state agency would have the proficiency to regulate 
marijuana production, but Haine said he's confident the Department of 
Agriculture will "find the expertise."

The proposal prohibits patients from growing their own marijuana. 
Instead, the state must approve 22 cultivation centers, as well as 60 
dispensaries where patients could buy the drug after getting a 
prescription from a doctor with whom they have an existing 
relationship. The legislation sets a 2.5-ounce limit per patient per 
purchase -- every 14 days.

"That's about 13 joints a day," McCarter said, adding that he fears 
medical use of marijuana will lead to increased recreational use of 
marijuana and other drugs.

McCarter's 21-year-old daughter, Amber McCarter, died in 2007. Her 
body was found on a railroad access road in Brooklyn, and authorities 
attributed her death to the use of fentanyl, a painkiller. She 
previously sought inpatient treatment for drug addiction.

Haine said marijuana is "relatively benign" compared to other 
prescription painkillers.

"Oxycontin is clearly more powerful and addictive than medical 
marijuana, and it's in millions of medical cabinets as we speak," Haine said.

Under the bill, patients with 38 specific types of ailments would be 
allowed to use marijuana.

Quinn has previously said he's "certainly open-minded" to signing the bill.

Eighteen states and the District of Columbia allow the use of 
marijuana for medical purposes.

In February, a poll conducted by the Paul Simon Public Policy 
Institute found that 63.3 percent of Illinoisans either strongly 
favor or favor legalizing the medical use of marijuana. Only 32.1 
percent of respondents in the Illinois poll said they strongly oppose 
or oppose legalizing marijuana for medical use. And in December, a 
CBS News poll found that 83 percent of Americans support legalizing 
the medical use of pot.

The bill is House Bill 1.

How senators from the metro-east voted:

* Sen. James Clayborne, D-Belleville: Yes

* Sen. Bill Haine, D-Alton: Yes

* Sen. Dave Luechtefeld, R-Okawville: No

* Sen. Kyle McCarter, R-Lebanon: No
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom