Illinois State Representative Lou Lang and Senator Bill Haine made their case for medical marijuana legislation in a column in the State Journal-Register of Springfield. In it they outline why the legislation is a responsible and progressive option that would give patients access to the medicine they need while laying important framework to minimize any effects on the still-illegal and not-yet-up-for-debate recreational marijuana.
According to the lawmakers’ op-ed, their legislation (House Bill 1) could make Illinois the 19th state to pass laws designed to help chronically ill people have access to helpful medical marijuana. They point out that 83% of Americans support such laws and that there is significant evidence that marijuana truly does help chronic pain and other medical issues.
In an effort to squash critics, the lawmakers use their column to dispel any questions about the law’s nature—pointing out that it will not be a “hands-off” policy like those in some states where a lack of regulatory framework has created a bit of a free for all.
The law would be a 4-year pilot program. As we wrote a few weeks ago, it passed a House Committee and is now going before lawmakers.
Access to medical marijuana under the law would not be an easy process. In an effort to keep the pot only for those who truly need it, patients would have to go through several steps in order to qualify.
First, a recommendation would have to come from a doctor who had a true relationship with the patient (not someone who set up shop solely to dole out marijuana prescriptions). The doctor would have to say the patient has one of the specified medical conditions and that they would get benefit from medical marijuana.
Then, the patient’s medical history would be forwarded to the state Department of Public Health that would actually conduct background checks on the patient. Anyone with a felony on their record would be disqualified. If the information in the patient’s medical record is verified, only then will the patient be issued a medical marijuana ID card.
Everything from the registration process to how the marijuana is obtained would be tightly controlled. For those who are frustrated with such strict regulations, it’s important to note that without such regulations assuring lawmakers that the industry will be on the up-and-up, the bill wouldn’t likely be passed.
The four-year medical marijuana pilot program is a step in the right direction, albeit not the giant step some advocates would want. Until marijuana is completely legalized, however, these small steps should be encouraged.