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Illinois House OKs medical marijuana measure

Published: Wednesday, April 17, 2013 3:30 p.m. CDT

CHICAGO — The Illinois House on Wednesday approved a measure to let people use marijuana for medical purposes, giving the proposal its best chance of becoming law in recent years.

The House sent the bill to the Senate on a 61-57 vote. The Senate previously has passed similar legislation.

Proponents say the legislation, which would set up a four-year pilot program, would be the most restrictive in the nation. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have approved some form of marijuana use for medical purposes.

The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, has come close in the House but previously fallen short. Passing the House was viewed as the biggest hurdle in the legislature because the Senate previously has passed a similar bill, though not this year.

At the Capitol earlier Wednesday, Gov. Pat Quinn said he is “open-minded” on the issue. Quinn said he heard a story from a military veteran during a meeting in the governor’s statehouse office that provided compelling reasons to use cannabis for relief of pain.

“He was suffering from war wounds and found definite help by medical use of marijuana,” Quinn said. “I was quite impressed by his heartfelt feeling. I’m certainly open-minded to it.”

Marijuana, despite drawing questions and controversy, is seen by supporters as a progressive and safer alternative to harsh medication in treatments of various chronic illnesses like cancer, HIV or multiple sclerosis.

Under this bill, an individual could be prescribed no more than 2.5 ounces of marijuana during a two-week period. A doctor who prescribes marijuana must have had a prior and ongoing relationship with the patient — a move to lessen the chance that doctors could give out prescription weed willy-nilly.

Additional restrictions and regulations create numerous other hurdles before a person could get cannabis. The prescribing doctor must be licensed to practice in Illinois.

The House action comes after Cook County, the city of Chicago and some other cities have decriminalized possession of marijuana, allowing violators to be ticketed rather than booked into the jail.

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