CHICAGO (CBS) Illinois may be changing policy when it comes to medical marijuana. For the first time, a bill to allow seriously ill patients to use the drug has cleared the first hurdle in the House.
CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov reports with one woman who says – it is about time.
But it’s not a done deal – not even close. Still, Julie Falco and others who rely on the currently illegal plant for their well-being hope lawmakers see this the way they do – as a life saver.
Julie Falco bakes with cannabis, also known as marijuana. The 43-year-old Chicago woman says in her 20-year battle with multiple sclerosis – cannabis is the only drug that has relieved all of her symptoms.
“My high for me, yeah, I’m high, I’m so happy that wow, I found something that relaxes all that pain, and the side effects from all those other drugs I was on, which was keeping me in a zombie-like state and not functioning,” Falco said.
And it’s allowed Falco to get off all of her pharmaceuticals.
Cannabis cookies and brownies have literally saved her life.
“They have saved my life,” Falco said.
That’s why Falco has been fighting to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes since 2004.
Earlier this month, a State House committee passed a bill that would create a three-year program allowing anyone with a debilitating illness to have seven dried cannabis plants and two dried ounces to help ease pain.
It would also allow the State Department of Health to issue registry identification cards to people whose doctors have recommended cannabis use.
Skokie Representative Lou Lang is its sponsor, and he says this isn’t a drug issue, it’s a health issue.
“We’re always talking around this building about how we can make people’s lives better, the health care system and all the plans that are out there cost millions and millions and billions of dollars,” Lang said. “Here’s something we can do to alleviate pain and suffering, it won’t cost the taxpayers a dime.”
Last time around, a similar bill was narrowly defeated in the Senate. This time, Falco hopes common sense and compassion prevail.
“But to look at it first and foremost of where it helps people regain their lives back, that’s what we need to look at and focus on,” Falco said.
But there is opposition, and it’s strong – especially among law enforcement groups.
Limey Nargelenas, the deputy director of the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, says other states with similar laws have reported problems like increased crime around distribution sites and forged medical cards.
The concern is that it will be used for non-medical purposes.