SPRINGFIELD — An Illinois House committee on Wednesday endorsed a proposed four-year pilot project to legalize medicinal use of marijuana.
State Rep. Louis Lang, D-Skokie, said if the project is approved, it would be the toughest medical marijuana law in the nation.
Currently, 18 states and the District of Columbia have laws permitting medical use of marijuana.
Lang, who is sponsoring the current version, said a similar measure that he unsuccessfully proposed last year outlined the toughest regulations ever written on the subject, and this year’s proposal “goes many steps further.”
“This is clearly model legislation for the country, if we were to pass it,” Lang said.
The proposal would allow patients diagnosed with specific conditions — such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and HIV — to get a special ID card allowing them to buy limited amounts of medical marijuana from state-licensed dispensaries.
Patients and caregivers would have to buy marijuana from one of 66 state-licensed dispensaries, which would get the marijuana from one of 22 state-licensed growers.
“The bill will allow very sick people to get a product that they need to feel better,” Lang said. “Their quality of life is at stake.”
Dr. Margaret Millar, a Quad City family physician in favor of the proposal, told the committee that with some illnesses, “the treatment may be worse than the disease.”
She said she has had a few patients die from overdoses of legal yet addictive medicines with harsh side effects, such as opiates. On the other hand, some other patients have admitted that they have used marijuana — and found some relief.
Millar said she supports Lang’s proposal because it would add to the arsenal of what she can use to help treat her patients and ease their symptoms.
Opponents included Laimutis Nargelenas, representing the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, who cited traffic concerns, and Ralph Rivera, representing the Illinois Family Institute.
Rivera said legalized medical use of marijuana could encourage recreational use by teens.
Lang replied that teenagers already smoke pot. “This bill is not going to make it easier.”
The House committee endorsed the proposal by an 11-4 vote. All four votes against were from Republicans, but two Republicans voted in favor, including state Rep. JoAnn Osmond, R-Antioch.
“You’ve worked with every issue that I had a problem with, so I will be supporting this today,” Osmond said.
The measure is House Bill 1.