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Registered: 07/06/10
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US: Medical cannabis bill revived
    #547437 - 04/17/11 06:23 AM (5 years, 6 months ago)



Sunday 17 Apr 2011
Legislation would create pilot program, sponsor says.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the first of two parts on continuing efforts to pass medical marijuana legislation in Illinois.

Supporters of medical marijuana legislation say their past efforts may have gone up in smoke, but they see better chances of success this spring.

State Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, said he has narrowed the focus of his bill to try to ensure its passage, which he feels could happen by the end of May.

"We have 15 other states that allow for this; 18 others are looking at it," he said. "When we're finished with the bill in Illinois, assuming we pass it, the other 18 will look to Illinois as a model for what they should be passing," Lang said.

House Bill 30 provides even stricter measures and control over the distribution and access to medical marijuana, which would be used to treat patients for chronic pain associated with diseases such as multiple sclerosis and acquired immune deficiency syndrome.

Last session, the medical cannabis bill got two chances to pass, but received 53 "yes" votes the first time and 56 "yes" votes the second, just missing the required 60 to pass.

Lang feels so confident that legislators and citizens will see benefits from the bill that he structured House Bill 30 as a pilot program. The bill provides for the act to be repealed three years after its effective date.

"One of the things that I felt appropriate to convince reluctant (General Assembly) members, to dip their toes in the water on this important bill, was to make it a pilot program," he said.

"They have to make me come back and prove it's working, prove it's needed, that we aren't producing a bunch of potheads," Lang said during a telephone interview with The Telegraph.

Lang's goal is for Illinois' legislation to be the most controlled bill in America that still allows sick people access to the product they need, he said.

"I'm very proud of this legislation. We've worked with advocates, business groups, legislators and even opponents, and I've even worked with opponents who will continue to be opponents, and I've done that to make this bill better. This will be a piece of legislation that will be groundbreaking; I'm very happy with it."

Lang eliminated a "grow your own" provision as the first order of change from his first bill. Next, if patients could not grow their own marijuana, they would have to be able to purchase cannabis, which prompted Lang to include dispensaries, which would have a $10,000 licensing fee, in the bill.

"But once this thing gets off and running, it will be a self-sustaining program," Lang said. "Normally the Department of Public Health comes to testify against it if they don't think they can afford it, but they haven't said a word to me. This is not a lose-lose for the taxpayer, it's a win-win."

Dispensaries also will have a $1,000-a-year renewal fee.

"They would be very tightly regulated," he said of dispensaries, which "must not make a profit," so as to not take advantage of sick people.

Also new in House Bill 30 is that all workers, owners and board members for a dispensary would be required to have criminal background checks.

Dispensaries would have to be hooked into a database that records who is getting the product and how much.

"No one will be able to buy more than 2.5 ounces every 14 days. The one exception is if a doctor can prove to the Department of Public Health that the patient needs more."

Section 5 of the bill states that modern medical research has discovered beneficial uses for cannabis in treating or alleviating the pain, nausea and other symptoms associated with a variety of debilitating medical conditions, as found by the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine in March 1999.

Subsequent studies since the 1999 findings support the therapeutic value of cannabis in treating a wide array of conditions, including increasing the chances of patients finishing their treatments for HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C.

Other debilitating medical conditions as defined in the bill are cancer, glaucoma, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Crohn's disease, agitation of Alzheimer's disease and nail patella.

Also eligible for the use of medical cannabis, under the definition, is a chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition or its treatment that produces one or more of the following: cachexia or wasting syndrome; seizures, including but not limited to those characteristics of epilepsy; or severe and persistent muscle spasms, including but not limited to those characteristics of multiple sclerosis.

Also included is a disease, condition or treatment that produces nausea or intractable pain that does not respond to other reasonable medical efforts for a reasonable period of time or when other options produced serious side effects.





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