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Mar-05-2008 13:59printcomments

Medical Marijuana Bill Clears Senate Committee in Illinois

A multiple sclerosis patient's testimony appears to have reached legislators.

Early morning shot of the Capitol of Illinois at Springfield
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(SPRINGFIELD, Ill.) - For the second year in a row, members of the Illinois Senate Public Health Committee voted in favor of a medical marijuana bill, 6-4, after receiving written and oral testimony from medical professionals, patients, and policy experts today.

SB 2865, sponsored by Sens. John Cullerton (D-Chicago) and Donn E. Trotter (D-Chicago), both of whom serve as majority caucus whips, would protect seriously ill patients who use medical marijuana with a doctor's recommendation from the threat of arrest and jail.

The bill will now go to the Senate floor for a full vote. An identical bill, HB 5938, sponsored by Rep. Angelo Saviano (R-River Grove), has been introduced in the House and is expected to receive committee consideration soon.

Committee members heard testimony from multiple sclerosis patient and Illinois Drug Education and Legislative (IDEAL) Reform board member Julie Falco, of Chicago, as well as registered nurse and multiple sclerosis patient Gretchen Steele, of Coulterville.

Falco said medical marijuana relieved her painful symptoms much better than the more powerful, addictive medications doctors had prescribed her.

"As of today, I am off of all pharmaceutical medications and living a relatively active life," she said. "I believe that physicians, healthcare professionals, legislators and the public can come together on this issue – it is time to change our laws."

"Because our laws regarding medical marijuana are hopelessly out of step with what science, compassion and common sense tell us about this drug, countless suffering Illinoisans like Julie and Gretchen must choose between finding relief or obeying the law," Cullerton said.

"Passing this bill into law will ensure patients battling incapacitating pain – some for their very lives – have access to proven safe, effective medicine."

Experience in 12 other states with similar laws proves that Illinois can protect patients without hindering law enforcement efforts to fight illicit marijuana use, said Ray Warren, a former North Carolina legislator and superior court judge who now serves as the Marijuana Policy Project's director of state policies.

"Our first obligation should be ensuring that our laws don't prevent suffering patients from obtaining needed medicine – or make them criminals if they do," he said.

"We have learned that we can fulfill this moral duty with well-regulated programs designed to effectively prevent potential abuses."

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JW, Chicago March 6, 2008 2:39 pm (Pacific time)

I would say something like, "Hopefully, this is the first step to insuring that we protect the sick and dying of IL from arrest." However, we can no longer afford to sit back and simply hope. I've written, called and visited with my state legislators about this issue. I strongly encourage all of you to as well. If you live in IL, they need to hear from you. You can find them on

Matthew March 6, 2008 5:59 am (Pacific time)

The American College of Physicians (ACP), the largest medical-specialty organization (with a membership of 124,000) and second-largest physician group in the United States, elucidates positions in a 2008 paper entitled "Supporting Research into the Therapeutic Role of Marijuana". Please read the full document here: Position 4: ACP urges review of marijuana's status as a schedule I controlled substance and its reclassification into a more appropriate schedule, given the scientific evidence regarding marijuana's safety and efficacy in some clinical conditions. Position 5: ACP strongly supports exemption from federal criminal prosecution; civil liability; or professional sanctioning, such as loss of licensure or credentialing, for physicians who prescribe or dispense medical marijuana in accordance with state law. Similarly, ACP strongly urges protection from criminal or civil penalties for patients who use medical marijuana as permitted under state laws.

Christina March 5, 2008 7:00 pm (Pacific time)

America, hypnotized by "Reefer Madness" for over 70 years," is waking up to the truth about medical marijuana. Thank God.

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