Medicinal marijuana waits for smoke to clear

By mlekovic

A bill to legalize medicinal marijuana seemed likely to be passed in the  Illinois Senate earlier this year, until it was abruptly halted in late March due to lack of votes.

Bill SB1381 was put on hold by its chief sponsor, Sen. William Haine (D-Alton), because it didn’t receive enough votes to pass in the state Senate. In addition to halting the legislation, its sponsors and staff are trying to include four additional amendments so it will gain the support it needs to pass 30 votes from the Senate and 60 from the House.

The House version of the bill seems to be having the same problem with lack of votes.

The House bill’s chief sponsor, State Rep. Lou Lang, said, “They are the same bills one in the House and one in the Senate and the reason [they’re not passing] is that we don’t have sufficient votes to pass the bills at the present time.”

In contradiction to Haine’s approach, Lang will not try to amend the House version of the bill.

“I would consider amending the bill if it was appropriate, if it would make the bill better, if it would help me get more votes to pass it, but we are not at that point yet,” Lang said.

The Senate version passed the Public Health Committee with a 6-2 vote on March 26. Three days prior to the vote, Sen. Jeffrey M. Schoenberg (D-Evanston) was added as chief co-sponsor. Sen. Dale Righter (R-Matteson) said he hasn’t seen the document proposal but has been opposed to previous attempts to pass legislation that would legalize medical marijuana.

“There is already a statute on the books in Illinois,” Righter said. “What it requires is that the Illinois Department of Public Health and the Illinois Department of State Police write rules together that would administer the program. That bill became law in the late 1970s.”

Without police interference, Righter said Illinois would have the same chaos, such as protests and marijuana abuse, that California experienced after the state passed a medicinal marijuana bill on Sep. 10, 2003.Righter said citizens of Illinois don’t know about the law already enacted by the Senate that allows the use of medicinal marijuana under close supervision by Illinois State Police.

Righter said the new bills proposed by the House and Senate don’t have any connections with police, and he has personally offered to help Haine pass this legislation, as long as it’s done with the help of Illinois State Police.

“The bill has many controls, and law enforcement is against the bill, generally, They’re against the bill for the reason I would like to call, ‘Well it’s always been illegal, so it must always be illegal,’” Lang said. “When we try to evolve society into a better place, they always come up with a reason to be opposed to that.”

For years now, prescription pills have combated the need for medicinal marijuana. A newer drug that spurred up, especially in Canada, is Satavix. It is a mixture of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is a chemical compound found in marijuana plants and marijuana, in a liquid spray form. Satavix has side effects that aren’t often found in medicinal marijuana usage, such as nausea and vomiting.

“Medicinal marijuana can be healing to different people, such as advanced AIDS and cancer patients, because it relaxes them and helps with painful conditions,” said Shirin Muzaffar, attending physician at Mt. Sinai Hospital. “Not everyone reacts the same way to medical cannabis.”

“Those who are already using this therapy are getting dramatic, important and significant results giving them a much better quality of life, and that’s what we should be seeking,” Lang said.

The outcome of the bill will have to wait until the Senate re-votes on April 26.  At that time, the Senate bill will have four amendments added to it to get enough votes to pass the Senate and be sent to the governor’s mansion where if passed, will be made into a law.