After years of rejecting plans to legalize medical marijuana, the House narrowly approved House Bill 1 on a 61-57 vote today. The measure now advances to the Senate. If it passes that chamber, Gov. Pat Quinn said he would be “open minded” but would not commit to signing the bill.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Lou Lang, a Skokie Democrat, said stricter restrictions in the current measure helped to persuade some representatives who had not voted for legalization in the past. “This is not about getting high,” Lang said. The measure was designed to “better provide health care to people who desperately need this product,” he said. Lang told the House his priority was to assist patients in chronic pain. “I know every single one of you has compassion in your heart,” he said. “This is the day to show it.”
The measure would implement a four-year pilot program legalizing medical marijuana from 2014 through 2018. Patients at least 18 years old applying for a medical marijuana card through the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) would have to prove they have one of 33 serious or chronic conditions specifically listed in the bill, such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, HIV/AIDS, Parkinson’s disease or cancer. IDPH is authorized to add to the list in the future. Applicants must show they have an established relationship with their doctor who approves the use, and they would have to submit medical records for verification. Both patients and their caregivers, who must be 21 or older, would be subject to background checks. If a patient’s or caregiver’s card is revoked, he or she would not be allowed to reapply for a new one later. […]
Rep. David Harris, an Arlington Heights Republican, said he was satisfied the bill was regulated “from seed to sale” and voted for it. Several supporters during the floor debate cited people they knew who could have benefited from access to medical marijuana.
* Passage was never completely assured, so the debate mattered…
With her voice breaking, Rep. JoAnn Osmond, R-Antioch, told colleagues she opposed a similar measure in the past but changed her mind because of an ill friend and his wife who spent time at Osmond’s home while the man battled chronic pain tied to complications from cancer.
Osmond would not let him use marijuana in her house. Now, two years since his death, she said she wonders about her decision because he was in a daze from a painkiller prescription that “made him extremely sick, very sick.”
North Side Democratic Rep. Kelly Cassidy told colleagues the story of a brother-in-law who suffers from terminal cancer and “would not be with us if not for making use of cannabis.” Pain pills were “sucking the life out of him,” but now he and her sister can “enjoy what will be his last days,” she said.
“My sister and my brother-in-law, who I love dearly, are able to make the best of an absolutely horrific situation as a result of this product,” Cassidy said.
Rep. Deb Mell, D-Chicago, said she has taken medicine for pain since having a mastectomy in August and can relate to the suffering. “There’s a real panic that comes in because it’s like, ‘I can’t live with this pain, but I can’t keep taking these pills,’” she said.
Rep. Lang mostly kept his cool during the debate, and that was important because Lou can be off-putting at times.
* On to the Senate…
It’s unclear how it might fare when it gets to the state Senate. The narrow House vote shows how politically tricky the issue can be.
State Sen. Terry Link, a Waukegan Democrat, said he’d favor the plan. But others appeared more hesitant and wanted time to review what the House did.
“It definitely needs to be regulated correctly,” said state Sen. Tom Cullerton, a Villa Park Democrat
Gov. Pat Quinn said he’s “open-minded on that. I think we’ll watch what the legislature does today.”.
The Senate has already passed a much less stringent med-mar bill, so passage should be much easier than in the House. Sen. Cullerton is a DuPage County freshman Democrat, so he is just watching his own back. However, polling shows this is overwhelmingly favored by Illinois voters. Lang said during debate that the proponents had polled several House districts and not one of them was under 60 percent in favor, including GOP districts.
* Quinn despises Rep. Lang and Sen. Link (lots of gaming expansion fights), but he will likely be for it in the end as well…
Quinn on Wednesday said the bill’s sponsor hasn’t reached out to him to build support on the measure.
The Democratic governor said he was recently visited by a veteran suffering from war founds who was helped by the medical use of marijuana. Quinn said he was “impressed by his heartfelt feeling” on the issue.
“I’m certainly open-minded to it,” he said.
* The roll call bounced around a lot…
* Final roll call
* VIDEO: State Rep Mike Bost: Medical marijuana today, legalized marijuana next