Medical marijuana can ease suffering

By Editorial Board

In a 53-61 vote, the Illinois House rejected proposed legislation to legalize medical marijuana on May 5. A similar medical marijuana proposal fell four votes short of passing in January during a legislative session that resulted in the passage of such progressive measures as the civil union bill and abolition of the death penalty.

Supporters thought the current bill had a better chance, thanks to increased bipartisan support and stricter regulations. Rep. Lou Lang, who sponsored the bill, kept the measure alive for another possible vote at a later date.

The proposed legislation would limit medical marijuana to extreme medical cases, where it could help people suffering from diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, cancer or AIDS. It would only be available through closely regulated nonprofits rather than via prescriptions from drugstores or pharmacies to prevent the system from being abused. The bill also imposes punishments, including potential jail time, on anybody who would try to sell his or her medical doses.

Legislators are proposing the bill on a trial basis. If adopted, it would legalize medical marijuana in Illinois for three years, at which point the legislation would be reviewed for either repeal or permanent adoption. This trial period is a more reasonable route to legalization than immediate, full adoption. Baby steps like this are far more likely to win over people on the fence or opposed to medical marijuana than large-scale radical measures.

The legislation would constitute the strictest medical marijuana laws in the nation, and Illinois should adopt it. Many people suffering from some of the aforementioned diseases find that traditional, prescribed medications to treat symptoms only make them feel worse and come with unpleasant side effects. This bill would provide a way for those people to find relief without dealing with criminals or risking legal repercussions to do it.

The bill’s regulations would allow it to serve a positive purpose without being abused by people seeking marijuana for recreational use. And if there does end up being some flaw in the legislation, the proposed trial period will let legislators spot and fix it before anything is permanently enacted as law. Illinois lawmakers should reconsider their positions and vote to approve this bill if it comes up for another vote.