Although a piece of legislation that would legalize medical marijuana in Illinois failed by a slim margin last December, a Republican leader in the House has shifted his support, raising the chances that the bill could pass. Tom Cross, the House Minority Leader, announced last week that he would support legalization. His change of heart, he said, was because he spoke with some people who use medical marijuana, including a disabled veteran.
He said that the key to the legislation’s success was that it limited medical marijuana access to people with particularly painful diseases, like cancer, lupus, and multiple sclerosis. The bill limits each user to two ounces of usable marijuana or six cannabis plants, users cannot drive within 12 hours of smoking, and as Cross pointed out, would only be accessible to people with “debilitating medical conditions.” The Illinois Department of Public Health would also be instructed to disseminate information about the health risks associated with marijuana abuse.
Cross’s support was disturbing for David E. Smith of the Illinois Family Institute, who wrote an editorial to the Chicago Tribune which concluded, “Medical marijuana is bad policy, bad for families, bad for society, and will cost the state more money for drug rehab.”
But some drug experts pointed out that marijuana could replace other drugs that are commonly used to treat chronic pain, like Oxycontin and Vicodin. Both are addictive and lethal if overdosed, neither of which have proven to be issues with marijuana.
Despite what the Illinois Family Institute, this seems like a good piece of legislation, especially if it provides alternatives to Oxycontin and Vicodin. It’s also telling that Cross changed his mind after speaking with the people who are actually affected by the legislation – something that perhaps more politicians should try.
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