The Public Square

Frank Nardulli of Illinois Drug Education and Legislative Reform on the the legalization of medical

Frank Nardulli of Illinois Drug Education and Legislative Reform on the the legalization of medical marijuana in Illinois

Hi, my name is Frank Nardulli. I live in Champaign and am the Downstate Outreach Coordinator for Illinois Drug Education and Legislative Reform (IDEAL Reform). IDEAL Reform works toward the legalization of medical marijuana in Illinois.

Our state Representative, Naomi Jakobsson, voted to send cancer and AIDS patients to jail for the simple act of taking their medicine. If you think that seems impossible, it's not.

Jakobsson, along with one other Democrat and five Republicans, sided with the White House and voted to kill the medical marijuana bill introduced by Representative Larry McKeon. This simple bill, like the laws now in place in 10 states, would have protected seriously ill patients from arrest for using medical marijuana with their doctor's recommendation.

The medical community has long understood the medicinal value of marijuana. In Illinois, more than 900 physicians have signed a statement supporting medical cannabis, joining organizations like the American Public Health Association, the Illinois Nurses Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, and the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine.

And just this February, the Journal of Neuroscience published a groundbreaking study in which researchers in Spain found that cannibinoids, the active chemicals found in marijuana, may be useful in stopping the progression of Alzheimer's disease.

Unfortunately, the White House prefers to ignore scientific and medical opinion. On February 17th, in a move that surprised most observers, the White House sent a cabinet-level official -- drug czar John Walters - and his entourage to the Illinois General Assembly to lobby against a bill that had not even made it out of committee! The House Human Services Committee obediently followed the White House line.

So why did Representative Jakobsson side with the White House and against the interests of sick and dying Illinois patients? It's hard to say. It can't be because of public opinion: an overwhelming majority of voters in Champaign and Urbana support this bill, and local and national polls have consistently shown overwhelming support for laws protecting medical marijuana patients -- including an amazing 80% majority in a national CNN/Time magazine poll.

A 1997 editorial in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine called laws banning medical use of marijuana, "misguided, heavy-handed and inhumane," and in 1988 the DEA's Chief Administrative law judge declared that marijuana is one of the safest therapeutically beneficial agents known to man! I encourage all residents of Champaign and Urbana to join me in voicing their opinions to Rep. Jakobsson about this issue, so that we can finally keep sick and dying Illinois patients out of jail.