Originally Posted Online: Nov. 28, 2012, 5:28 pm
Last Updated: Nov. 28, 2012, 7:58 pm

Jacobs supports, Morthland opposes legalized medical marijuana

Comment on this story

By Eric Timmons, etimmons@qconline.com

Illinois lawmakers could vote next week on a bill to legalize marijuana for medical use.

A bill sponsored by state Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, would allow patients registered by the state and diagnosed by a doctor as having a debilitating medical condition to use marijuana.

Rep. Lang said he thinks he has the 60 votes to pass the bill during the veto session in Springfield, which started Tuesday, and could call the legislation for a vote next week.

A medicinal marijuana bill was passed by the Illinois Senate in 2009 with the support of state Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline, but failed to gain support in the House.

Sen. Jacobs said he was convinced to support the bill by the experience of a friend in Arizona who used marijuana to help him through chemotherapy.

"My best friend died two years ago from leukemia and he hated smoking but when he got sick and had to go through chemotherapy he began to use medical marijuana to eat sleep and regulate his body," Sen. Jacobs said.

He said allowing medical marijuana in Illinois could be the first step to a broader conversation about the drug and whether it should be legalized.

State Rep. Rich Morthland, R-Cordova, has been a long-term opponent of legislation to allow the use of medical marijuana.

His daughter suffers from epilepsy and would be eligible for a marijuana prescription if the drug was approved for medical use, Rep. Morthland said.

But he said he'd be concerned that criminals would approach her to buy or steal her marijuana if it was prescribed to her, a problem he said she doesn't face with the drugs she's prescribed now.

Marijuana has already been legalized for medical use in 18 states and the District of Columbia. Voters in Colorado and Washington State this month passed laws to allow the recreational use of marijuana. The distribution of marijuana remains illegal under federal law.

Henry County State's Attorney Terry Pattonsaid he was concerned that the state would be unable to prevent medical marijuana ending up in the wrong hands.Medical marijuana laws in already in existence in states like California aren't working, he said.

Interstate 80, which runs through Henry County, is frequently used to transport marijuana ostensibly grown for medical purposes in California, Mr. Patton said.

"My concern is that no state has been able to write a medical marijuana bill to ensure that the prescriptions only end up in the hands of the really sick," he said.

HB30, Rep. Lang's bill, would only allow patients to acquire 2.5 ounces of marijuana every two weeks. They would be allowed to grow marijuana for personal use or to obtain it from state-regulated dispensaries.

The bill would have a three-year trial period and would impose a $5,000 non-refundable application fee and a $20,000 certificate fee for dispensaries.

Rock Island County Sheriff Jeff Boyd doesn't oppose medical marijuana for those with debilitating illnesses, although he's concerned about any efforts that could make the drug easier to obtain.

"I do believe it's a gateway drug," he said. "My concern is do we want to make it more available to our most vulnerable and that's our children."

State Rep. Pat Verschoore, D-Milan, was unavailable for comment Wednesday.




States with medical marijuana laws
Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont, Rhode Island, Washington State, Massachusetts, Delaware and the District of Columbia.

States with pending medical marijuana laws
Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York