By Hilary Russell
The Illinois Senate made history last night by approving a bill that would authorize the limited use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. The measure advanced again tonight when a House committee approved the same measure by a vote of 4-3.
Rep. Lou Lang, a Skokie Democrat, said SB 1381 could be called in the House as early as tomorrow. Lang sponsored another version, HB 2514, which has the same intent but different restrictions. He said he’d try to advance the version sponsored by Sen. Bill Haine, an Alton Democrat, because it already cleared one hurdle by passing the Senate.
Lang said he would only call the bill for a full House debate if he felt sure he had enough votes for it to pass. “I am not a legislator that does test votes,” he said. “I am not going to run this out to the floor and have people vote on this pro and con. If there’s a vote taken on this bill, it will be when I think I can pass it.”
Opponents maintain that marijuana is a gateway drug and will lead to drug addiction and be accessible to children. Republican Rep. Patricia Bellock of Hinsdale said one reason she objects to the bill is because marijuana is an illegal drug. Most law enforcement agencies in the state also oppose this legislation.
Rep. Ron Stephens, a Greenville Republican, said there will be no way to know how many plants patients have in their homes. The bill calls for a 60-day supply of the drug, or two ounces of dried cannabis sativa and three mature flowering plants. See background here.
Haine and Lang maintain that the bill’s language is very strict and clear. Anyone who violated or abused the law would face criminal punishment.
The next step is for the bill to be called on the House floor and debated by the full chamber. We'll have more if that happens.