News Local/State

Medical Marijuana Bill Headed to Illinois Governor’s Desk


A measure to legalize medical marijuana use in Illinois is now headed to Gov. Pat Quinn.

Lawmakers in the Illinois Senate voted 35-21 on Friday to send the measure (HB 1) to Quinn for his signature. It was approved last month in the Illinois House, where Urbana Democrat Naomi Jakobsson is one of its sponsors.

In east-central Illinois, the bill received "no" votes from Republican Sens. Bill Brady and Jason Barickman, both of Bloomington, Chapin Rose of Mahomet, and Dale Righter of Mattoon, and "yes" votes from Democratic Sens. Mike Frerichs of Champaign and Andy Manar of Bunker Hill.

The proposal allows physicians to prescribe marijuana to patients with specific terminal illnesses or debilitating medical conditions. Cancer, multiple sclerosis and HIV are among the 33 illnesses listed in the bill.

The measure gives a framework for a four-year pilot program that includes requiring patients and caregivers to undergo background checks.

Sen. Bill Haine sponsored the measure. The Democrat, from Alton, frequently reminds his colleagues he was once a prosecutor. He said the idea is to help people in pain find relief.

"It is not about recreational drug use," Haines insisted. "It is not about using this substance to get 'high,' quote-unquote."

But opponents say that is just what they think will happen. Sen. Kyle McCarter is a Republican from Lebanon.

"We're making a decision today to say in our communities that marijuana use is OK," said McCarter.

In a news release issued after the vote, Sen. Jason Barickman (R-Bloomington) said that the medical marijuana bill is an attempt to circumvent federal law.

"We have an established framework for the federal government to regulate controlled substances. The state shouldn’t treat it differently," said Barickman in the release. "I have much compassion for those who face chronic pain or terminal illness and need comfort,, but this is a debate better meant for Washington."

The measure now goes to Governor Pat Quinn, who says he's "open minded"  on the idea.