With a final vote by the state Senate Friday, the Illinois legislature has finally approved a medical marijuana bill. It only took ten years.
If Gov. Patrick Quinn (D) signs it into law, Illinois will become either the 19th or the 20th medical marijuana state, depending on whether similar legislation in New Hampshire gets approved first. Quinn has signaled that he approves of medical marijuana, but has made no definitive statement about whether he would sign or veto the bill, so Illinois activists and the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) are calling on supporters to keep up the pressure. On Sunday, Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon said she supported the bill.
If the bill is signed into law by the governor, Illinois will become the first state in the Midwest to approve medical marijuana through the legislative process. Michigan approved it in 2008, but that was via a voter initiative.
The bill, House Bill 1, would allow patients with qualifying medical conditions and a doctor’s recommendation to use marijuana and purchase it through a network of up to 60 state-regulated dispensaries. The state will also allow up to 22 growers to supply the dispensaries. There are no provisions for patient or caregiver home cultivation.
“We applaud the Illinois legislature for taking action and adopting this widely supported and much-needed legislation,” said Dan Riffle, MPP deputy director of government relations. “The final product is a comprehensive and tightly controlled system that will allow individuals with serious illnesses to safely and legally access medical marijuana with their doctors’ supervision.”
The bill was sponsored in the House by Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie) and in the Senate by former state’s attorney Sen. William Haine (D-Alton). It designates the Illinois Department of Agriculture, Department of Health, and Department of Financial & Professional Regulation to regulate the cultivation, acquisition, and distribution of marijuana.
“We are hopeful that Gov. Quinn will join legislators and the vast majority of Illinois voters in supporting this proposal,” Riffle said. “Marijuana has proven medical benefits, regulating it works, and there is broad public and legislative support for doing it. This is a no-brainer.”
By Phillip Smith