Thursday, January 06, 2011

Medical marijuana fails in the House

By Jamey Dunn

An attempt to make medical marijuana available to residents with serious or chronic illnesses fell short in the Illinois House today.

The bill failed on a previous House vote in November (scroll down), when the ‘yes’ votes climbed as high as 56 before settling out at 53. Today’s count was 56 ‘yes’ votes, 60 ‘no’ votes and a single ‘present’ vote.

Opponents said that marijuana use can lead to addiction to harder drugs, such as heroin. They also voiced concerns that the plan would lead to the legalization of marijuana for recreational use.

“This … goes way beyond medical use, medical treatment. This is about the legalization of marijuana. … We’re sending the wrong message to our children,” Rep. David Reis, a Willow Hill Republican, said before the previous House vote.

Skokie Democratic Rep. Lou Lang, the sponsor of Senate Bill 1381, said conventional prescription pain treatments can be draining and even dangerous. He added that over the long term, they often stop being as effective after individuals in chronic pain develop a tolerance to them.

“Sometimes, they take the narcotic and it lays them flat in their bed and they can’t function and sometimes they overdose and die,” Lang said. “It’s not a quality of life. They can’t function. They can’t do laundry. They can’t take care of their children.”

Lang said he plans to introduce a similar bill in the next legislative session, which starts next week. He said he plans to keep pressing to make medical marijuana available as a treatment option until a bill eventually passes.

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